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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Where do we go after yesterday’s surrender by centre?

The central government’s move of offering to ‘put on hold the farm laws for one or one and half year’ to placate the protesting farmers unions in hope of drawing them to the negotiating table, has sent shockwaves among its supporters.

The new farm laws were introduced based on recommendation of several experts and after extensive deliberations. They are clearly beneficial to majority of farmers in the country, giving access to new markets outside restrictive govt. controlled APMC mandis, promoting corporate investment in agriculture sector while protecting farmers’ rights, and deregulating several foodstuffs allowing farmers to get better prices.

However, a vested lobby of union leaders, farmer groups from the Punjab-Haryana belt fearful of losing govt procurement at MSP, disgruntled arhatiyas (middlemen), sprinkled with liberal dose of disinformation spread by urban naxals, Opposition and Khalistani extremists and carried by large sections of mainstream media, has put into question one of the most significant reforms introduced in living memory.

The government’s offer to the unions is to suspend the three new farm laws for upto 1.5 years and set up a joint committee to discuss the Acts to end the stalemate. It must be noted that the farm laws have already been stayed by the Supreme Court which formed a committee of experts to hold discussions with farmers and government and submit its report within two months. That committee held its first meeting on Tuesday, but farmers’ unions have already rejected it saying its members were ‘already in favour of the farm laws’.

Union agriculture minister Narendra Tomar said he is ‘happy’ that farmer unions have taken the government’s latest proposal ‘very seriously’ and that they would ‘consider it’ and convey their decision on Jan 22. Initial indications from union leaders like Joginder Singh Ugrahan are that even this proposal could be rejected.

BJP supporters stumped – do our votes count?

We all knew that any major reform in Bharat is tough, as there will be always be some group or the other which will oppose them. This was especially true in the coalition era when governments were dependent on a clutch of smaller parties for their survival.

But the expectation was that a resounding victory with 303 seats in the 2019 general elections would give BJP the mandate to push through such reforms. However, two events have now shaken the confidence that voters had in democracy and our institutions.

First was the Shaheen Bagh protest. After the much needed CAA (again, a law that had been demanded by various parties at different times) was passed, we saw an illegal sit-in at Shaheen Bagh which blocked a major thoroughfare for 3 months, became a platform for incendiary speeches and culminated in the gruesome anti-Hindu Delhi riots of Feb, 2020. It was only the advent of the Covid-19 lockdown which finally cleared that site. Courts and government passed the buck to each other, and it was only months later that SC ruled against such illegal occupation of public spaces instead of using designated protest sites.

Now, history is repeating itself with a group of disgruntled farmers massing on Delhi’s borders, closing down many vital roads. The group refuses to negotiate with the government, sticking adamantly to its demand for repeal of the laws, and has also refused to accept any Supreme Court ruling in the matter.

Several other farmer organisations have spoken in favour of the laws, and the experience of states which have already implemented part of these reforms shows they clearly work. Recent surveys also revealed that there was hardly any support among public for the protestors, with many union leaders having links to Communist and far-left organisations.

Whatever the government’s calculations in treating the protestors with such obsequiousness – and there is a school of thought that the government is wary of cracks developing in the Haryana government, wary of upsetting farmer lobbies before UP elections next year, and also that the in-limbo CAA will be implemented post the WB and Assam elections scheduled for April-May (while Hindus of WB are in favour of CAA, those in Assam are against it) – the fact is that a government with the biggest mandate since 1984 has been made to bow by a handful of protestors.

People like Yogendra Yadav (all-round protestor and psephologist), Ugrahan (attended Shaheen Bagh protests and also demanded release of Maoists arrested for Bhima Koregaon violence), Hannan Mollah (CPM leader and general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha) – who the people of this country have repeatedly rejected at the polling booth, have been given legitimacy far beyond what they deserve.

Our democratic institutions – government, executive, judiciary, police – all have been damaged by the way a minority of vested interest groups have been allowed to hijack the popular mandate.

So what should we do?

The anger is palpable and it is real. The way Article 370 was abrogated, correctly overruling dire predictions of a bloodbath in Kashmir, had given hope that the Modi government’s second term would witness more such decisive action. But the soft-pedalling over CAA and now farm reforms has damaged the image and credibility of this government, whatever be the hidden reasons behind it.

There are calls for a new Hindu party, which is unambiguous in both ideology and execution. In a polity as large as Bharat’s where there are multiple Muslim parties openly pursuing their fascist agenda under umbrella of secularism, this demand makes perfect sense. Some had hoped that Shiv Sena could be that unadulterated Hindu vehicle, but that boat has now sailed. Arjun Sampath led Indu Makkal Katchi has already been formed in TN, and Hindu Samhati has also declared its intent to form a political outfit and contest the upcoming WB elections. So if clear-minded Hindu activists can come together to form a pan-Bharat Hindu party, there is definitely space in the political spectrum for that.

But let there be no illusions – contesting elections and coming to power is a hard grind. Especially when you are trying to attract the Hindu vote which is split along various fault lines. An AAP, despite having a high-profile launch, massive support from the media and internationally-connected NGO ecosystem, and no shortage of funding, has after 8 years only won the city-state of Delhi.

But the biggest learning of the last 7 years for the average Hindu should be the following:

1.) Political power has its limitations, especially in a post-colonial country like Bharat where most of our institutions are deeply colonised. Any person we choose to represent us has to fight the Nehruvian establishment, which is still firmly entrenched across institutions. This is not give a free pass to Modi – clearly his advancement of sectarian minority-only schemes, and inability to change school curriculum or introduce any meaningful reform in education are inexcusable. In other areas, he has made an effort to challenge the Lutyens’ consensus – like NJAC law passed to end collegium system – but was rebuffed. Just see how the SC addresses government lawyers versus the tone it uses with Lutyens’ lawyers like Prashant Bhushan and Dushyant Dave during hearings.

2.) Mental colonisation. This is arguably our biggest challenge, and something made worse by the notion held by many that we must emulate Western ideals. The West is not our friend. This does not necessarily mean they are our enemy, but they are definitely not our friend. The Litmus test of our relation with them is what they say and do about Christian missionary outfits funded by them; a serious problem gnawing away at the country’s vitals. USCIRF’s annual reports and the recent reported released by UK’s Chatham House berating Bharat and ‘Hindu nationalism’ show that the West has no intention of changing its stripes anytime soon.  We need to free our mind of the fear of ‘global image’ – the only thing which should matter to us is the uplift and dignity of fellow Hindus. We can take a cue from how smaller nations like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam – all on friendly terms with the West – deal with the West on their own terms. The importance of decolonisation cannot be overstated, as this is the mental chain which holds us back at critical moments.

3.) Sangh parivar is not perfect. They have given conflicting signals on definition of Hindu, secularism, issues like Sabarimala etc. But depending on Sangh for everything is also not the answer. We need more Hindu organisations. Again, we need not look further than the myriad number of Muslim and Christian organisations which exist in just Bharat alone, leave alone the world. And just like how these organisations overcome their theological and organisational differences to present a united front to kafirs/heathens, so should we.

4.) Question Hindu religious organisations. They are missing in action. Attacks on temples in AP, freeing Hindu temples from government control, protesting evangelical preying of vulnerable Hindus, speaking up against denigration of Hindu Dharma by OTT platforms and Bollywood, protesting the persecution of  Bangladeshi and Pakistani Hindus – these are not political topics. These are issues which should touch Hindus across communities, and all it needs is strength of convictions to speak up. We need to rejuvenate existing Hindu religious organisations to stand up for Dharma, or create a new breed of energetic, well-trained religious organisations that can propagate and defend Dharma, irrespective of who is in power.

5.) Never lose hope. Hindus today are more aware and assertive than at any point of our lifetimes. There are green shoots of a Hindu ecosystem – digital media outlets, think tanks, socio-cultural orgs, digital collectives – forming, more so in the digital world than the physical one. It is just in a nascent stage, but it is there. Support it whichever way you can, and develop ground presence in non-political ways.

6.) The bottomline is that we have to realise that we are fighting a Dharma-yuddha, the fight of our lives. The enemy wants nothing less than total and complete annihilation of Hindus, their Dharma and their way of life. ‘Cow Piss drinker’ and ‘penis worshipper’ are not some juvenile slurs, but expressions of a deep-rooted hate for us. Left-liberal elites, most with Hindu names, Islamists, Evangelists and other #BreakingIndia forces have been silently waging war against Hindus – they will not rest until their goal is accomplished, and neither should we. We have to fight on multiple fronts, using different means, and with a strategic, long-term vision in mind.

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