Capital shame

| Updated on January 26, 2021

Tuesday’s violence in Delhi de-legitimises the protests against farm laws and must be condemned

India managed to pull off an impressive pandemic-time Republic Day parade with no less pomp than normal times. If one’s chest swelled with pride at seeing the smart uniformed men and women march smartly down the Rajpath, one squirmed just minutes after as hordes, better described as hooligans and hoodlums than farmers, invaded the capital and attacked these very same men and women in uniform. What unfolded across different parts of Delhi, within minutes of the parade ending, is despicable, disgusting and condemnable. It’s a surprise that the day ended with only one casualty from the images of hoodlums brandishing swords, iron rods and sticks and chasing the woefully outnumbered policemen that came alive on television and social media posts. The “humble farmer”, who was supposed to ride through the capital in his tractor peacefully, turned it into a weapon racing down streets in an attempt to plough through contingents of policemen. Everything suggests that the violence was not spontaneous.

Conspicuous by their absence were the farmer “leaders”. The likes of Yogendra Yadav and Hannan Mollah, who have been all over television guiding the protests, were nowhere to be seen as the mayhem unfolded. It is evident that they have lost control over the protesters and anarchy reigns now. The visuals of the hallowed precincts of the Red Fort being desecrated by a mob hoisting a religious flag on the mast reserved for the Tricolour must be upsetting for even those most well-disposed towards the protesters. Surely, these are not peaceful, poor farmers protesting the loss of their livelihoods. They appear more the rich landlords out to teach a lesson to the government for daring to usher in reforms to make the lot of the real poor farmer better. Through the 65-plus days of carnival that has been on at the outskirts of Delhi in the name of protests, the question to answer is: How is all this being financed? A poor farmer could not have funded all this and in such style for so long. Either these farmers are rich and want to protect their wealth from competition or there are other sources of funds.

Tuesday’s events have completely de-legitimised the protests and eroded whatever little public sympathy that was there. It is unacceptable for a group of people to hold an elected government to ransom through the kind of sit-in protest that we have seen at Delhi’s borders. Yes, the government bungled badly in hustling the farm legislation through without consultation with stakeholders or a debate in Parliament. But when the same government offered to keep the laws in abeyance for the next two years, which effectively kills it for now, the protesters turned it down. Now, the onus is on the “leaders” who stoked the protests to explain to the protesters that it is time to accept the government’s offer and return home. Anarchy is not the solution to government incompetence, talks and negotiations are. The government should engage with the real leaders of farmers, listen to their grievances and, where genuine, gracefully accept and amend the laws. The protest has gone on for too long and it’s time to end it.

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Published on January 26, 2021
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