In the News
Farmers in India Work Out Strategies for Upcoming Elections
– J. Singh –
Farmers, women, youth and other toilers of Punjab blocked all roads to Ferozepur from all sides on January 5 which forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to turn back from reaching Ferozepur where he was to address a rally and lay the foundation stone of a new project. Hundreds of thousands of farmers gathered near the venue with black flags and “Go Back Modi” signs. Modi was forced to return to the Air Force base in Bhatinda. At the place where the rally was supposed to take place only empty chairs could be seen.
Young people pointed out that this is Modi facing the anger of Punjabis who have shown their fighting spirit again after forcing him to repeal the anti-farmer laws. Some people are calling for the resignation of the Home Minister, Home Secretary and the Director General of Police. At a press conference, Punjab’s Chief Minister stated that his government had no knowledge of the Prime Minister’s decision to go by road. His itinerary was completely handled by the central security apparatus, he said.
The anti-people monopoly-owned media have gone into action by demonizing Punjabis claiming that the “poor Prime Minister narrowly escaped with his life.” This is a cheap attempt to create sympathy for Modi in the coming elections. Judicial and government panels have been set up to investigate security protocols that changed the Prime Minister’s route at the last minute without informing local officials.
The farmers’ umbrella organization Samyukt Kisan Morcha issued a statement on January 6 which said among other things:
“It is a matter of great regret that to cover up the failure of his rally, the Prime Minister has tried to malign both the state of Punjab and the farmers’ movement by using the pretext of ‘somehow his life was saved.’ The whole country knows that if there is a threat to life, then it is to the lives of the farmers, from criminals like Ajay Mishra Teni becoming ministers and roaming freely. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha expects the Prime Minister of the country to not make such irresponsible statements keeping in mind the dignity of his post.”
Farmers’ leaders in Haryana asked the farmers to check their bank accounts on January 1 and see if their income had doubled. Modi had declared in 2014 that the farmers income will be doubled if the BJP wins elections. Now 2022 has arrived but the reality of the farmers is stark. Their average income is 27 rupees per day (less than 50 cents Canadian). They said all the political parties have been making false promises for the last 70 years.
People are holding meetings in villages and discussing strategies for the upcoming elections in Punjab. In one of the meetings, speaker after speaker pointed out that none of the parties serve the interests of the people. Once elected they do not even come to the villages for the next five years they are in office. They use their position to amass wealth. When a person is elected to the assembly he or she cannot speak until the leader of the party asks them to speak or they are ordered to cast their vote to support the party’s position, not what serves the interests of the people. At the meeting, they proposed that non-party candidates be elected and that a committee of 100 people from the constituency be formed that will guide the elected representatives about what to say in the assembly.
Such meetings and discussions are taking place all over Punjab, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttrakhand and other places.
In one of the rallies in UP near Delhi, speakers pointed out that the Prime Minister keeps talking about development and more development. Highways built by the government are showcased but on the highways there are signs that bullock carts cannot use them; bicycles cannot be used on them; scooters can’t go on them. More than 200,000 villages do not have schools. What does this development have to do with us, villagers ask.
Every half hour a farmer commits suicide due to indebtedness. Villages do not have health facilities. There is no employment. What kind of development is Modi pushing? The past 75 years is a story of deception and fraud by all political parties which have been in power. People are saying that it is the people who have to become rulers themselves rather than voting cattle for the ruling elite.
January 1 marked the 203rd anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in which 500 Mahar soldiers defeated 28,000 soldiers of Peshwa. Mahars are considered untouchables under the Brahmanical order and Peshwa had made laws that Mahars must hang clay pots around their necks so that their spit does not fall on the ground. They were also to tie a broom to their backs so it would sweep the ground where they walked. They were also ordered not to go outside after 9:00 am so that their shadow would not fall on passing Brahmins and pollute them. Every year thousands of Dalits gather in Bhima Koregaon to celebrate this battle. Three years ago the ruling elite and their state organized communal violence, killing several people. Using that as a pretext, several prominent human rights activists were arrested under trumped up charges and are still in prison. Father Stan Swamy, one of the prisoners, passed away in jail last year. A mass rally took place this year in Bhima Koregaon to call for the release of all political prisoners.
A debate has broken out in India about Hinduism and Hindutva (a nationalist political ideology). Liberals and left upper caste politicians, writers and activists claim that Hinduism is a way of life, has universal and secular values. But Hindutva is its opposite, they say. They decry its use by BJP and its affiliates as a political tool to organize violence. Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor and others claim that they are Hindus and not Hindutvavadi (supporters of Hindutva). Several affiliates of BJP and proponents of Hindutva are calling for genocide of Muslims. They are attacking Christians and calling for India to be made a Hindu nation. In many places ordinary people are forming Defence Committees to affirm the rights of all against attacks by these goons of the ruling elite.
Dalit activists and scholars on the other hand are pointing out that Hinduism is just a garb to hide ugly Brahminism and Brahmin supremacy. It has no resemblance to the spiritual beliefs and practices handed down from time immemorial but was codified by the British to keep the people divided while claiming the state is secular.
For its part, they say Hindutva is nothing but weaponized Brahmin supremacy to attack Dalits, tribals, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and other faith communities. They point out that before the British there has never been any religion called “Hinduism” in India. Jativad (caste oppression) is central to India since the onset of class society but no Indian language had the word Hindu in it. It is barbaric Brahmin supremacy by another name.
Dalit activists and scholars have developed a detailed historical critique of Brahmin supremacy and attempts of the Brahmin elite to hide it under cover of what they call Hinduism starting in the 1780s in Bengal. This myth was spread by the British who propped up these elites and gave them positions of power and privilege under the rule of the Raj. Phule, Periyar, Ambedkar, Illiah, Teltumbde, Shraman, Kharat, Yengde and many more are the names of Dalit activists and scholars who have developed this critique and are deepening it today. They point out that in the 19th and 20th centuries people like Gokhle, Tilak, Dayanand Saraswati, Vivekanand, Lajpat Rai and many leaders of Congress openly claimed that their religion is not Hindu but Brahmanic. To call it Hindu is derogatory they said and low castes are not part of their religion. Dalits are also calling on Swarna (upper caste) fellow travellers to carry out this critique and not be fooled by the rhetoric of Brahmin supremacy hiding under the garb of Hinduism. They claim that Hinduism and human rights are not compatible by definition.
(TML Daily, posted January 10, 2022. Tractor2twitr, I.P. Singh Toor, M. Goyal, @Kuch_nhibro02)