The farmers’ agitation, which had suffered a major setback in the wake of the violence and chaos witnessed on Republic Day, has not only made a strong recovery in recent days but also gained international traction from unexpected quarters. It’s primarily the Union government’s high-handedness that has led to the turn of events. Barely a fortnight after offering to put on hold the three contentious farm laws for 18 months, the Centre is apparently going all out to weaken the over two-month-old stir by keeping the Internet suspended, installing concertina wires and cement barriers, and hammering nails into roads in areas on Delhi’s outskirts.
Such repressive steps, initiated ostensibly for the sake of ‘public safety’, are proving to be counter-productive as world-famous celebrities like pop singer Rihanna and environmental activist Greta Thunberg have come out in support of the protesting farmers. An internal issue of the country is receiving unwarranted global attention because the government has misread as well as mishandled the situation developing after the January 26 disturbances.
PM Narendra Modi’s assurance during the all-party meeting on January 30 that the Centre’s proposal to suspend the laws ‘still stands’ has cut no ice with the protesters, who are sticking to their demand for repeal of the Acts. The brazen attempts to turn the protest sites into fortresses have only widened the trust deficit. The machinations aimed at demonising and demotivating the agitators reek of desperation. The emergence of Rakesh Tikait as the ‘face’ of the agitation has put the Centre on the back foot, giving the Opposition parties — marginalised so far — a foot in the door. The onus is on the government to redouble efforts to break the deadlock by bringing the farm unions back to the negotiating table. The likes of Rihanna and Greta may have no locus standi to comment on India’s farm laws, but the government cannot ignore the groundswell of opposition triggered by their opinion among millions of social media users. A country offering solutions to the world’s problems, as claimed by the PM the other day, must not be deemed incapable of resolving its own issues.