A fresh round of insinuation campaign against the farmers’ movement has been launched by a group of intellectuals, academics and political activists, the so-called conscience keepers. This is being done precisely at the behest of the BJP and RSS with the mission to weaken the farmers’ movement. These so called conscientious people have also started nicknaming the protest as the crisis of the middle peasant and not the ‘chhota kisan’ (small farmers).
Like the prime minister, Narendra Modi who can assess the identity of the people from their dress, these intellectuals could also identify the ‘chhota kisan’ from their dresses and behaviours. Their attempt to segregate and ghettoise the farmers makes it amply clear that their primary motive is to serve the interest of Modi and the saffron brigade.These people from the beginning of the protest movement have been making all kinds of efforts to label the movement as of the rich farmers inspired and supported by ‘Khalistanis’.
Initially they tried to portray it as the movement of farmers from Punjab. But with farmers from Haryana, Rajasthan and UP joining the protest, they have taken to new strategy of decrying the movement saying it does not have participation of the ‘chhota kisan’.
These are the people who have been dividing the farmers’ movement on caste line. Describing the agitation as being of rich and middle class helps serve the interest of the RSS and BJP. They try to create an impression that the rich and middle class farmers have been exploiting the ‘chhota kisan’.
These self-styled agriculture experts have been following in the footsteps of the RSS and BJP and echoing their voices. They argue that this protest is not of the penurious ‘chhota kisan’, but of Charan Singh’s peasant-proprietors who have seen better times. It is a historical fact that the problems of these two classes of farmers are of varied nature. This was due to the size of their land.
While the rich and middle class farmers owned more lands, the ‘chhota kisan’ owned less than 2 acres. If the big farmers sold their products in the market, the ‘chhota kisan’ also did not produce only for self- consumption or meet its subsistence need. He also sold his produce to meet his other family needs.
In fact these ‘chhota kisans’ have been the worst sufferers. This is well exemplified by the miseries they face in Bihar. They have to sell their produce at throw away prices. They need some money to survive. In some cases they have also become sharecroppers and also joined the ranks of the agriculture labourers. Legalising the MSP will immensely benefit them. They will be assured of getting enhanced price. With their life style similar to a labourer, often they were segregated from the rich and middle farmers. They were identified more with the agricultural labourers.
The nature of cultivation and use of manpower resources put the two against each other. Rich and big farmers hired the labourers and middle ones themselves performed the task. But the situation underwent a change in the wake of globalisation, reforms and neo liberalism. Basically the intermediate castes and the OBCs constituting the middle class was the maximum beneficiary. Initially it benefitted from the market, but it nursed a grudge against the MSP, which was insufficient. Obviously, being numerically strong, they are seen at the face of the agitation against the farm laws. But the fact is the ‘chhota kisan’ is the main force.
Not less than 70 per cent of the middle and ‘chhota kisan’ own the operational holding below 1 acre. Though these intellectuals and also PM Modi lament that ‘chhota kisan’ and marginal farmers could never eke out an honest existence, no matter how much they worked their small piece of land, they do not muster courage to confess that it is the wrong MSP policy of the government that has been at the root of their miseries.
The Modi government is trying to push through its laws on the pretext of being ‘reform measures’, but the fact is it would simply further pauperise this class of farmers. They will be denied whatever they have been getting in the existing situation.
Undoubtedly the crisis of Indian agriculture is of the ‘chhota kisan’ but perilously, the government’s ‘reform measures’ do not seem aimed at uplifting this stratum of smallholders.Of course the movement will help the Charan Singh’s peasant-proprietor, but more that that it would boost the economic condition of the middle, small and ‘chhota kisan’. One argument is also placed forward that the middle farmers have experienced a roughly four-decade spell of prosperity from the 1970s and now has its back to the wall. Does it imply that they should be dragged down to the level of small or ‘chhota kisan’ or to the category of agricultural labourer?
Do these intellectuals ever think of why the small and ‘chhota kisan’ of Bihar have become labourers and have been eking out their livelihood by working on the fields of farmers of Punjab and Haryana? Almost all the sugarcane factories are closed. They have to sell their rice at Rs 900 per quintal instead of the MSP of Rs 1868. Why they are not getting any protection?
The massive turn out at the ‘mahapanchayats’ of the farmers make it explicit that rich or middle class farmers are not the participants at these meetings; instead the huge population of the poor and ‘chhota kisan’ has thrown its weight behind the Satyagraha. They might not have come forward if the so called ‘reform measures’ would not posed a serious threat to the farming profession, the agricultural activities, itself. The move of the Modi government has in fact endangered the existence of the farmers, irrespective to their class divides.
So far the farmer leadership has been keeping away the political parties and their leaders from the protests. But one thing which is crystal clear is that the time has come when the political forces must intervene and come out openly in support of the movement. With Modi unwilling to accede to the farmers’ demand, the movement need to be spread amongst the urban middle class.
This class has been main support base of Modi and looks at the protest as a move aimed to destabilise the Modi government. This is the reason that this class is not so keen to provide even moral support. The basic reason is this class nurses many wrong notions about the agitation. This was deliberately fed to them. They must know about the machination of the BJP-RSS.