Disappointing the very large number of people who had high hopes that the stand-off with farmers’ organizations will be resolved soon, the government has not accepted this main demand after even 44 days of peaceful and disciplined protests by farmers at five places on Delhi border. The talks today on January 8 were particularly dismal as the farmer representatives, judging from their statements made soon after the end of talks, appear to have left the meeting with even less hope than before.
The case for repealing the three laws is very strong and apart from the growing unity of farmers on this demand as well as their firm determination on this issue, this demand has been steadily receiving the support of more and more eminent persons and experts. Such is the force of this demand and the movement that landless worker organizations, their members and representatives have also come out in support and even joined the protest dharna.
Various sections of people including women, students, youth, artists, traders, vendors etc. have been coming out in spontaneous support of the movement. The movement has touched strong emotional chords of various sections of people but not of the government which appears to be increasingly alienated from farmers, workers and many other sections except its hard-core supporters.
In fact even sections of the Sangh Parivar have taken a stand against the three farm laws. Long-term allies of the BJP like the Akali Dal and some other smaller groups have parted company due to their opposition to the three laws. Most of the leading opposition parties are of course opposed to the three farm laws, and some have stated this very firmly.
Surely all this should have been reason enough for the government to repeal the three farm laws, particularly as the passing of laws had ignored democratic and constitutional conventions and were pushed ahead somehow in great hurry, and this by itself should be considered a strong reason for repealing the three laws.
Very unfortunately all these considerations have been ignored by the government in its obstinacy in refusing to accept the foremost demand of the farmers’ movement to repeal the three farm laws. This has high costs for the nation and its democracy. The more obvious costs relate to the hardships suffered by farmers, the death of nearly 50 farmers at protests held in bitterly cold weather with spells of heavy rain, wider health issues, the various other problems related to such blockades.
However there are also wider costs relating to loss of trust between government and people, the hardening of attitudes, the loss of faith in democratic processes. Such brinkmanship as is being practiced can become extremely costly if things get out of hand and the situation deteriorates. This is why experienced well-intentioned leaders do not allow such confrontations to linger on for a long time. The costs for the nation, its democracy and security will become extremely high if the government resorts to heavy use of force against this movement.
One can only hope, despite all recent disappointments, that better sense will prevail in the government side and it will finally accept the demand for the repeal of the three farm laws.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth for Children.