The year was 2020. A group of farmers from various agriculture-dominated states such as Punjab and Haryana had set foot in Bharat’s national capital demanding that the newly enacted farm laws be repealed. The agriculture sector was already suffering from multiple issues and badly needed many of these reforms. Underemployment was a huge problem with the farm sector with more people involved in agricultural activities than actually required.
The reforms would have unshackled the potential of this sector. After all, these reforms were sought by the very stakeholders from a long time and would have provided them choice, better integration with market and a better price for their produce-just the right recipe to heal Bharat’s ailing agriculture sector. However, soon a misinformation campaign was unleashed targeting Bharat. The protesting farmers became the face of everything that’s wrong with Bharat. Western media pounced on this opportunity to once again bash Bharat, one of their favourite activities since the Modi government won the mandate to rule the country.
Suddenly, every major media outlet in the west was giving an emotive coverage of the crackdown on protesters by the Bharatiya government. The government was declared fascist, anti-poor and questions were raised against Bharat’s democracy. Western media wasn’t alone in this. Many international NGOs backed the “cause” and heralded the protests as the final nail in the coffin of a “dictatorial” government. Even the lawmakers in these countries wrote letters to their respective leaders to register strong protest with the Bharatiya government. Leaders such as Justin Trudeau who don’t lose any chance to win points from the liberal lobby also expressed his solidarity with the protests and enabled protest rallies against the laws in Canada as well.
Cut to 2023. The UK is all set to revise its public order law which will give sweeping powers to the police to take pre-emptive actions against similarly disruptive protests like the one in Bharat. This essentially means that the crackdown on protesters can be undertaken even before the protests take place. This move comes after a series of demonstrations in the UK by climate change activists who have blocked London’s M25, one of the busiest roads in the country. This again bears resemblance to what happened in Bharat during farm protests when farmers blocked border areas around the National Capital and choked all the major roads leading to a huge loss of livelihood and lives in the NCR region.
The UK is not alone in using harsh measures to control and prevent protests. During the “Freedom Convoy” protests in Canada, the same Justin Trudeau who was backing anarchy in Bharat in the name of farm protests went ahead and provided massive powers to the police to employ various tools to dismantle blockades and occupations by the protesters. Farm protesters in Bharat received his backing and support but when the same thing struck home, Justin transformed from liberal messiah to a ruler with an iron fist.
Interestingly, in Germany too something similar is taking place where the police are unleashing all its force to evict protesters from Lützerath village to make way for big excavation machines that can finally mine coal. However, unlike the farm protests that were covered in all their glory by various international press agencies, not a single image has surfaced from the German protest calling their government as “fascist”, “anti-poor” or “anti-climate”.
In comparison to Bharat where every protest is given prime coverage by the West and becomes a pretext for admonition of the government by their leaders, what’s happening in the West goes unnoticed with no one calling their governments ‘fascist’. Farm protests are not the only instance of the West using its tools to attack Bharat. The same thing happened during the anti-CAA protests as well. Sometimes these sermons cost Bharat a huge loss to its strategic interest as evident in the closing down of the Sterlite copper plant that made Bharat an importer from its position of a net exporter. While the hypocrisy of the West is often pointed out by Bharatiyas, Bharat at a strategic level isn’t doing much. We neither have a culture of targeting these countries back nor do we have the tools to do the same. Most of our own media is inward looking and our academics don’t research their problems as much as they over-invest in highlighting our faultlines.
Knowledge-creation and dissemination is a necessary function of our times. Narratives can either make or break our national fortune. High time that we start taking it seriously. One of the ways can be to produce well-researched reports on the state of democracy in their countries. We can always use our own tradition of a free press by covering their instances of anarchy as well. How long will Bharat remain the recipient of the overzealous West? We must also contribute our bit by asking difficult questions at global forums.
(The story was published on firstpost.com on January 17, 2023 and has been reproduced here with minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)