Has the Centre underestimated Punjab farmers?


Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 29

A couple of weeks ago, two senior ministers of the Narendra Modi government held “off-record” meetings with media persons to highlight the merits of the three Central farm Acts and give the government side of view on the persisting farmers’ agitation in Punjab.

In one such meeting, after the presentation was over, the ministers were asked about the upcoming ‘Dilli Chalo’ agitation of Punjab farmers, which they dismissed as a “politically driven affair”.

“You saw what happened to their ‘chakka jam’…..this one too will fizzle out,” they said.

Regarding how long they expected the agitation to continue, they said “not long”.

Facing criticism over “underestimating Punjab farmers and handling of the situation” it seems the government is considering preponing the December-3 meeting to buy peace with the agitating farmers.

Observers say it is now evident that the Narendra Modi government not just “underestimated” the agitation but the determination and resolve of Punjab farmers who reached Delhi despite so many hurdles.

It is also evident the Punjab BJP leaders also did not give the correct feedback on anger among farmers of the state.

“It is a remarkable movement which is not driven by religion or politics. To give it anti-national/Khalistan label is a huge mistake The farmers have conveyed their message loud and clear….quite clearly the Narendra Modi government has limited understanding of Punjab and it’s people,” says an analyst.

They point to the way Punjab rejected their two top contenders, late Arun Jaitley and union minister Hardeep Puri, despite the Narendra Modi wave sweeping the country.

Amit Shah had asked farmers to shift to Burari for talks. Farmers say it is not correct to keep conditions for talks.

“To judge Punjab as a Hindi heartland state is a mistake. Punjab is not like Uttar Pradesh, or even like Haryana. It cannot be polarised with the Hindu-Muslim fear. Punjabis don’t fear Muslims or anyone for that matter. But if the effort is to polarize it between Hindus and Sikhs, then God help them,” said a Punjab-based expert.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi praising farm laws again today, it is clear the government is in no mood to roll back. It remains to be seen whether farmers are willing to take the Government’s Burari offer. Meanwhile, speculations are the government may prepone the December -3 meeting to buy peace.



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