Harm management

This is the centenary year of Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement, which descended into communal violence in Malabar, and later caused the murder of 22 Indian policemen at Chauri Chaura in February 1922, forcing the Mahatma to call off the movement. The overwhelming response to his satyagraha across the nation did not deter him from correcting the dangerous mistake of violently pitting Indians against Indians. No popular struggle can become successful if it turns hateful and brutal towards one’s own countrymen, whether in uniform or otherwise.

We witnessed hooliganism, vandalism, violent clashes and death on our Republic Day, transforming a peaceful protest for a just cause into a dirty display of mindless bravado and brawn. What was achieved was the desecration of the farmer’s movement against the three farm laws; and the farmer leaders remain discredited. All through the two-month-long agitation, the protesters had shown exemplary restraint and had controlled the younger elements from breaching the elders’ commitment to the tenets of non-violence. How did things go so completely out of hand? There are various theories doing the rounds, but the police ought to take a fair share of the blame for letting the vandals reach Red Fort and enact the unseemly drama of violating the sanctity of the ramparts from where the national flag is raised every Independence Day.

Some thugs have twisted the sacred into the profane; whose thugs are they? Who incited them? Why didn’t the farmer leaders or the government get to know this plan of disruption? These questions will haunt us for some time now. Meanwhile, the farmer leaders should accept the moratorium announced by the government and bring the temperature down. Even now the farmer leaders can seek a longer suspension of the laws and reciprocate it by an equal period of suspension of the protest. If the government does not keep its word, the protesters are free to resume their agitation. It is imperative that frayed nerves need be calmed; and agent provocateurs and saboteurs are not given an opportunity to repeat the performance on February 1.

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