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Understanding the mind behind the “farmers’ protest”

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The farmer’s protests started in Punjab a few months ago, and focused on one issue: the absence of a written guarantee that the Government of India (GoI), through its arm the Food Corporation of India (FCI) would continue to procure large amounts of wheat and paddy from the farmers of Punjab at a Minimum Support Price (MSP), which incidentally happens to be significantly above the global price for these crops.

Two days back, the government, after multiple stages of dialogues with farmers, offered not only what the farmers had asked for—a written guarantee of continuation of MSP—but more in terms of same-rate taxation for APMCs and the free-market mandis. Not only that, the government had clearly indicated that it will be willing to engage even further in talks with farmers. It could have been understood if the government had said “here is what you asked for, we have given it, now no more” but they went a step further.

Yet, within hours, the top 5 farmer leaders, led by their intellectual head Darshan Pal, had rejected the generous government proposals. In return, they promised to “intensify their stir” to paralyze life across the country, gherao BJP legistlators, block specific national highways, and more.

One is left only to wonder why? Why did the farmer’s not accept the government’s proposal which gave them what they had asked for over 3 months now?

In order to understand this, let us peep into the mind of the man who took the microphone first (see photo) and announced to the nation that the farmer’s leaders would reject the government demands. That man is Darshan Pal.

Darshan Pal is a founding member of the Maoist organization People’s Democratic Front of India (PDFI), and OpIndia has already produced an article on this dubious association. In this article, I shall go deeper into the thinking of Darshan Pal, and investigate his ideology more wholistically. What drives this man’s world view, what makes him act the way that he does?

Now, Darshan Pal is a fairly well known person in the leftist discourse that focusses on developing economies such as India, and especially on its agriculture. I will use his own words, without any modification, to describe him. I have taken his words from the draft minutes of the IWC of the World Social Forum held at New Delhi in 9-13 November, 2006.

In his own words, we will see a man who is viscerally opposed to free markets, to capitalism. But that is not all, we will see a man who views Islamist terror as a legitimate “struggle”.

Let us begin. First, Mr. Pal says the usual expected from a hardcore Marx-leftist: that the world is a continuous series of “class struggles”. This is, of course, the sine qua non of Marxism and Communism.

Interlocutor: “What form of struggle?” What do you mean by the term “struggle”?

Darshan Pal: For me struggle is philosophical and practical. When two opposites interact there is always struggle.

For me, struggle is an instrument through which a new thing, at a high level of development, is evolved. For example, in a society, we are struggling to exploit nature. There is a struggle between human beings and nature. In a society there is struggle between different classes also. Out of this struggle new concepts, and new formations come.

I think struggle is an essential part of nature. It is an essential part of society also.

Next, he makes clear that his world view has no room, zero tolerance for the idea that free markets and capitalism can actually be beneficial in creating and spreading wealth, as indeed they have been in every single developed economy of the world. Mr. Darshan Pal of course, differs.

Darshan Pal: How can you humanise that capitalism? Capitalism is based on exploitation, discrimination and oppression. You can’t give a human face to exploitation. Next, he makes clear that he views the war on Islamist terror through the same lens. When asked whether this war is deligitimizing struggle, his reply is revealing.

Interlocutor: Clearly monopoly capital is not going to fold without a struggle, yet the world is awash with the discourse of the war on terror, where forcible struggle is significantly delegitimised. How do you feel about this?

Darshan Pal: When people who are struggling against their enemies — the enemy may be a landlord, a
capitalist, the system, or an oppressor — they start first with a very mild struggle. If they get what they need with mild struggle they have no need to resort to other forms.

In a society, a class or a section of people, a nation, or a country, or an individual, is forced into harsher forms of struggle by the system itself. They ask for something and they don’t get it. They demand it; they don’t get it. Then they snatch it.

Interlocutor: So forcible struggle can be legitimate?

Darshan Pal: When no other alternative remains.

Interlocutor: So the resort to armed struggle is less an expression of fanaticism as an indication of the closure of the system?

(notice the direct attempt to delink Islamic terror to fanatical beliefs, and attribute it to a more humane and rational response)

Pal: Human beings go to that extent only when they are compelled. For example, the Iraqi people:
what is the alternative in front of the Iraqi people? They can’t pray for freedom.

For the Palestinian people, pushed out of their own land? Sometimes these repressed, exploited people when they can’t fight for their lives in the framework of law or constitutions, adopt unconstitutional ways, of which armed struggle is one way.

Note that he does not give an example of another people who have been “pushed out of their own land” (using his exact words) far closer to him—the Kashmiri Hindus. Like all Indian leftists they seem to lose memory when it comes to Hindu victims of oppression and persectuion. Or maybe they do it deliberately since it pokes a hole in their narrative of Islamist terror being a form of “justified struggle against oppression.” In Kashmir for sure we cannot say that the helpless Kashmiri Hindu minority was driven out due to some form of “justified struggle.” Instead, it was religious hatred, pure and simple.

In summary, Darshan Pal offers nothing surprising: he is a dyed in the wool communist. His views could be read straight out of the writings of Marx. The world has changed a lot since Marx, and global communism has died a natural death. But nothing has changed for the likes of Darshan Pal.

I appeal to Indian farmers: is this the kind of man you want to lead your protests? If there are genuine concerns that you have, the government has shown time and again that it is willing to talk, in the manner expected of the world’s largest democracy. Talk to the government, and resolve all matters to mutual satisfaction. However, changing the goalpost each time the government agrees to your previous demand, and making more menacing threats do not behoove the Indian Kisan. Also note that your movement is being used by anti-India forces, such as Khalistanis and the Left-Islamist bloc. Is that agreeable to you? One should hope not.

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