The utterances of the farm leaders that they don’t care about what the Supreme Court of India will say about the farm laws will lead to anarchy and chaos. The same leaders do not recognise the supremacy and authority of Parliament to make laws.
The three farm laws which initially came via ordinance were later passed by Parliament with huge majority, culminating more than twenty years of discussion and discourse in Parliament and through constitutional mechanisms of select standing committee of Parliament, various chief ministers’ committees, state agricultural ministers’ committees and other committees. And the interesting point is that such committees cutting across all political lines recommended what the present laws are seeking to reform in the farm sector, which is freeing the real farmers from the clutches of unscrupulous mandi traders and a corrupt system, commission agents and millionaire and billionaire farmers.
The irony is that the so-called farm leaders or other leaders who are opposing the present reformative farm laws are the ones who vociferously fought for the same reforms both inside and outside Parliament. But why oppose now? The laws passed by Parliament reflect the will of the people in a democracy and no one can be allowed to destroy that will. Any grievance can be taken to court including Supreme Court or if any one has people’s support then one can get any law amended or repealed in Parliament. Interestingly, the so called farm leaders don’t recognise the only two methods available in a democracy, where protest is only the means to garner support and for awareness.
What we are seeing today in the name of protest is a dangerous narrative and an effort to take hostage and destroy the very same will of the people via Parliament by those many of whom have Maoist and extremist links and are unfortunately aided by opposition parties, at the same time, openly and unsuccessfully professing the non-ideological and non-political nature of the protest. Few thousand farmers out a total rural population of 85 to 90 crores cannot alter that will.
Several rounds of talks have taken place between the government and those leading the limited protest. The government, which is the executing agency for the laws passed by Parliament, has agreed to take ten steps forward by agreeing for amendments like registration of traders, allowing states to make appropriate rules, appeal to civil court, buyer cannot take loans against farmlands, written assurance about MSP and its continuation in future, etc, but the so-called leaders have stuck to their demand of repeal of farm laws. This attitude of “my way or the highway” will certainly always lead to failure of talks. Flexibility, which is key for successful negotiation, is missing in the so-called farm leaders. This leads to an inevitable conclusion that the farm leaders have some hidden agenda. Such an agenda is slowly becoming visible to the people. The attack and destruction of 1,500 cellular towers and stealing of gensets therein of an Indian cellular service provider which is launching 5G services in India is revealing and tells a story when viewed with the perspective of Huawei of China being denied permission in India for the very same 5G services. Coupled with the fact that many who are leading the protest have Maoist links or are Maoist sympathisers aided and abetted by foreign elements duly supported by some opposition parties has spilled the sinister narrative of creating chaos and anarchy in India.
The trial tractor rally (a trial rally is a strange and unheard of phenomena in political protest) establishes the artificial and ulterior motive of protest to blackmail the government, Parliament and the Supreme Court. The tractors in the farmers rally were brand new shiny ones, bought recently, without any licence numbers. Who is financing such an expensive protest? The so-called farmers leaders’ threat to bulldoze the capital on January 26 reminds everyone of the threat, coercion, anarchy and chaos of Washington a few days back. The utterances of some farmer leaders that they don’t care about any verdict on the constitutionality of the farm laws by the Supreme Court where the challenge is pending is a grim reminder of the fact that those leading the protest have nothing to do with farm laws or real farmers nor have they understood these laws, but nevertheless have some idea which way the court may go. For them institutions like Parliament and Supreme Court have no sanctity nor do they have any respect for laws, rule of law or grievance redressal mechanism established by the Constitution. The mask is now off and the face of anarchy, chaos, insurrection and sedition is visible.
Imagine if any political party, whether Congress, BJP or any other party or organisation, say they do not recognise the authority of the Supreme Court or its judgements. Then all hell would have broken loose and criminal action launched against them. On the other hand, such leaders who are challenging the authority of Parliament and Supreme Court are roaming with impunity.
What is being opposed by farm leaders is why farm laws have given over and above what was existing and the freedom and choice the farmers have now to sell their produce to anyone and anywhere to realise higher prices. Shockingly and equally baffling is that the direct farm electricity subsidy transfer into farmers’ account through the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill is being opposed. Can’t we see corruption writ large in this opposition? “Polluter pays” is an international principle but those creating air pollution havoc for the entire north and eastern India by stubble burning do not want to be penalised for playing with the health of crores. Those who shout on Diwali pollution are silent on such opposition.
The protest sites are flush with money and well-stocked with all kinds of facilities, big luxury cars abound, tractors fitted with disco lights blaring the choicest music, LED screens showing movies watched by people who do not understand these laws, all-around feasting. In the history of protests, I have not seen such happy protesters, although sometimes angry due to changing of long-standing status quo.
If farm leaders feel that they have such popular support then they should test their strength in the next session of Parliament or, if not wait for the final outcome in the Supreme Court, wait for the next general election in 2024. The real face is getting visible behind the mask. These laws are empowering real farmers, so adjust or perish.
However, one has to be vigilant and careful of involvement of a foreign hand including that of Maoist and extremists which is unfolding. The crux of the issue is that the so-called farmer leaders don’t want a solution because these farm laws are a solution and they are the problem. The utterances of farm leaders is a recipe for chaos and anarchy.
(The author is a Supreme Court Lawyer, Political Analyst and Senior Mediator. Views are personal)