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Protest-from-home gaining ground in pandemic times

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on May 20, 2020

With Covid-19 lurking around the corner, gone are the marches, bandh calls, public transport disruptions, stone-pelting and mass meetings.

With dharnas and marches ruled out, Indians have taken to holding placards and circulating emails to make themselves heard

The contagion has changed how India agitates. With Covid-19 lurking around the corner, gone are the marches, bandh calls, public transport disruptions, stone-pelting and mass meetings.

In normal circumstances, Shetkari Sanghatana, the apex body of farmers in Maharashtra, would have organised massive marches across the State to agitate against the Uddhav Thackeray government’s alleged apathy towards cotton purchase. But Covid-19 has forced the organisation to change its style of protest.

The Sanghatana has decided to avoid congregation and, instead, launch agitations with adequate social distancing. Per the plan, cotton farmers will burn a handful of cotton near their homes to attract the government’s attention.

Burning cotton

“Cotton farmers are facing problems in selling their cotton because of the terms and conditions set by the government. On May 22, we will start this agitation where farmers will burn a handful of cotton in front of their homes,” said Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat.

The BJP, the main opposition party in the State, is also launching an agitation, but in keeping with the times. The party has announced that BJP workers in Maharashtra will hold placards and stand near their houses on May 22, denouncing the State government’s “inaction” on the Covid-19 crisis. Party workers will not step out of the premises of their homes.

BJP leaders across the State, instead of hitting the road like they would’ve done earlier, are submitting memorandums to government officials to draw their attention to the problems faced by people.

Women’s organisations and civil society bodies, expressing concern about the impact of the lockdown on women and girl children, recently circulated an email petition for endorsement and submitted it to the State government.

The Rayat Kranti Sena, a farmer’s organisation in south Maharashtra, recently organised a dharna. Here, again, the agitating farmers sat in front of their houses for a day, along with family members, asking the State government to address their problems.

Little damage

“There is no damage to public property due to these modes of agitations. Also, the intention of the agitations is fulfilled as the State government and media are taking note,” said a senior government official.

Damage to public property is always a major concern during traditional modes of agitation, the official pointed out. For example, in 2019-20 (up to February), Indian Railways suffered damage of property valued at approximately ₹99.90 crore due to agitations.

Published on May 20, 2020

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