Our current government is extremely pro-farmers. They have full page advertisements with our Prime Minister Narendra Modi promising “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” (We are for everybody’s development). When he was just a Prime Ministerial candidate, he made huge promises to farmers. He spoke about how he can double their earnings.
The last year was a proof that he failed to meet his promises. There have been several instances of farmer’s protest throughout the country. What is worse is that the farmers, who work day and night so that we can have food on our plates, are fired at or termed anti-national for protesting. Their demands for minimum support price is met with bullets or criticism. Last year, many farmers protested in Madhya Pradesh demanding a loan waiver. In a clash with police, five of them were killed.
History was created yesterday when 40,000 farmers marched for 180 km in six days in Maharashtra to make their voices heard. CPM’s farmer wing, the Kisan Sabha, organized the march. The people of Mumbai poured out on the streets to help them with food, water and support. While everybody appreciated their dissent, another narrative is doing the rounds on social media.
30,000 Farmers r walking to Mumbai for Loan waiver with Red Caps & Flags?
Avg Cost of
1 Cap = 20
1Flag = 50
20k Caps = 4 Lakhs
10K Flags = 5 Lakhs
Total cost = 9 Lakhs
20rs x 3 meals/day
60r x 30,000 = Rs.18,00,000/day
Rs18,00,000 x 7days = 1.26 Cr
Who is sponsoring them
— Sambhaji Bhide (@SambhajiBhide) March 12, 2018
Many people are sharing this narrative forgetting about the more important issue. Why are the farmers protesting? Why did they decide to walk for 180 km?
BJP MP Poonam Mahajan indicated that the Urban Maoists are misguiding the protesting farmers. She further said “Sadly, tribals have been captured by the Maoists and their centre is in Pune. The government can do a lot for them, but the (Maoists’) ideology is stopping them.”
“We have seen urban Maoists in many cities of India. They go to districts which are called Maoists affected areas,” Mahajan told reporters outside Parliament.
“Maoists are misguiding them (the farmers). It is the responsibility of the Maharashtra government to sit with the farmers and sort out the problem,” these comments show the uneasiness caused by the poor farmers to the BJP-led government.
A fake twitter trend was also generated to discredit their protest. A government that promises to be a farmer’s friend has reduced them to Maoists.
We, as Indians, take pride in the fact that our country is the largest democracy in the world. We all learnt about democracy when we were in school. We know that a democracy has a Constitution. It has a ruling party, an opposition. After turning 18, every citizen of our country can choose to vote. But, there is an important aspect of democracy that is often overlooked. Dissent.
Dissent means sentiment or philosophy of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea or an entity. In a democracy, we are allowed raise a voice against something that does not satisfy us. But, recent incidents show that our democracy is not quite tolerant about dissent. In the last four years, increasing cases of intolerance have been brought to light. Dissenters are either termed as anti-nationals or Maoists.
For example, on February 2016, when a few students of Jawaharlal Nehru University organised an event to mark the hanging of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri held guilty by the Supreme Court for his role in 2001 Parliament attacks, riots occurred which ultimately led to people branding the organisers and participants of the event as “anti-nationals”.
Anybody who raises their voice for minorities or Dalits or Muslims are called anti-nationals. Nationalism has now become a brand that you show off. You show off how much you adore the government and anybody not agreeing with the opinions become anti-national. You show your nationalism by supporting everything Hindu and disregarding everything else.
The same show of this new brand of nationalism was seen during the Kasganj violence. Youth with Saffron tirangas (flags) in hand barged into a Muslim locality, where they were celebrating Republic Day and one thing led to another and a riot broke out. The fact that those youth were chanting slogans and asking those Muslims to go back to Pakistan was lauded by many political figures. The question is why would they go to Pakistan? If their home is in India, why do they need to go to another country because of their religion? Isn’t our country secular?
Not even Jawans are spared
Yes, the above topics were controversial and nothing for sure can be concluded. So, let’s talk about Jawans. We respect our Jawans and make them stand on a pedestal. We salute the Indian army for spending sleepless nights protecting our borders from our enemies. They are the most “national” one can ever be. But, one voice of dissent and it’s all over.
BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav, took to Facebook to complain about the poor food at a camp along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir in January 2017. He said the quality of food was bad and he even had to go to sleep on an empty stomach on many occasions. After an enquiry by an internal committee, he was dismissed from his duties.
“I know too many wrongdoings of these officials. That’s why they are doing these things with me. Please do something and take my message to the public. Jai Hind,” Yadav was allegedly heard telling his wife in a recorded phone conversation.
Dissenter or Anti-national, you decide
Narendra Modi made a lot of promises of “Vikas” before coming to power. Four years down the line, we continue to live, as we have in a country that is poor, violent, corrupt and overpopulated.
Any voice that is raised is immediately shut down, be it farmers’, students’ or jawans’. Now, who is anti-national is for up to you to decide.