Yesterday (4th Jan), on the occasion of the birthday of legendary Punjabi Singer Gurdas Maan Ji, one of my friends who know that I am big fan of him forwarded the Youtube video link of his song “Punjab”. The message conveyed by the lyrics of that song in the soulful voice of Gurdas Maan Ji is really heart wrenching. The theme and script of the video song is even more moving and lachrymose where the singer makes Shaheed Bhagat Singh of childhood age to time travel in the future to the Punjab of 2017. There, after seeing the deterioration of the cultural, social and moral values in Punjab, Bhagat Singh is shocked, agonized and wonder for what kind of future he had sacrificed his life. In the penultimate scene of the video, a crowd of protestors are fully blocking a main road by sitting on it near the statue of Saheed Bhagat Singh. They do not allow even an ambulance with a critical patient inside it to pass. The poor old wife of the patient folds her hands and begs the protestors for passage for the ambulance but she is mercilessly pushed and thrown on road. This very intense and heart piercing scene of the video song got stuck to my mind and lingered there for hours.
It made me think though it as a scene from a scripted video to make people realize the degradation in values but it depicts sad reality which is happening daily on the roads in today’s India. In the name of protest, roads are blocked for weeks and even National Highways are not spared. Today when Delhi –Jaipur Highway (NH-48) was blocked at many points including Shajanpur Border, thousands including ladies and small kids got stranded in traffic for longs hours and then traffic was diverted to the other inner narrow road where it crawled whole day.
Be it on the name of Anti CAA protest, or on the name of farmer’s protest or protest for demanding reservation for Gurjars or Jats, traffic is brought to halt, trains are stopped with impunity and the daily life of the commuters is put in upheaval. The right of patient to get treatment, right of an accident victim to reach the nearest trauma center, right of a daily wager to earn living and to travel to his workplace in order to avoid sleeping empty stomach, right of a shopkeeper to open his store , right of student to go to school; in short, the constitutional right to life and personal liberty of the common and voiceless citizens is sacrificed for the right of protest of politically motivated elements who have vested interest and who are capable of gathering and stage-managing crowd on roads owing to money power.
The natural question which arises about road blocking protests especially now ongoing so called farmers protest are – Whether the demands made by protesting groups are justified or not? Who are participating in the protest? Are they really farmers? Who are the organizers?
When this protest at Singhu Border of Delhi started, it was the sowing time for Rabi crop and the farmers did not have even a spare single hour to be away from their fields. If farmers would have come on roads leaving the fields, Rabi crop sowing would have decreased not increased by 4% as recorded by Agriculture Ministry. Regarding the demands to roll back the bills, farmers of India already waited long enough for much needed comprehensive Agriculture reform Bills. To reduce the distress in Agriculture sector and to pull out the farmers from the perennial cycle of misery, Agriculture Scientists, Economists, farmer leaders, political leaders cutting across party lines have been recommending these reform bills since last four decades.
National commission for farmers headed by Professor M.S Swaminathan (Father of Green Revolution in India) and umpteen number of other committees and commissions made at both state and central level, to study the causes and solutions for agrarian distress, unequivocally batted for need of Agricultural reforms. But no previous governments had political will and resolve to go ahead for the welfare of politically unorganized and voiceless farmers at the cost of annoying the traders and intermediaries who form a strong and consolidated pressure group in electoral politics. The ongoing protest is handy work of politically dwindling congress and the left parties to get traction. With the protestor’s attempts of capturing the toll tax booths on various roads of Haryana and the demand to take back the cases registered against Shaheen Bagh protestors, it is quite evident that the ulterior motive is to spread anarchic mayhem.
A pattern can be observed in recent democracy disrupting protests where first congress starts opposing a constitutionally passed bill on the roads not inside parliament. Congress Party fund is thrown to gather the crowd and then to stage- manage the crowd to block the roads. Then blockades acts as a nucleation point for urban Naxals, sponsored media, Pseudo seculars, leftists, fissiparous forces, intellectuals and academicians who have been beneficiaries of congress largesse. Career protestors like Yogender Yadav and celebrities like Swara Bhaskar also join to add to the mass appeal. The leftists, who have network and allegiance beyond national border, signal to their international masters who start maligning the image of India at global arena by giving biased and agenda based coverage of protest in left leaning international media. These protests grow inorganically in size and nuisance, and as per plan it slowly turns into organized blackmailing exercise. Control rooms are made to event-manage the protest. Rumor mills are activated to churn out vicious lies and dangerous rumors.
The way some unscrupulous rumor mongers could feed on the fear psychosis of innocent and gullible people and spread the rumor of monkey-man attacks and Choti-Katua (Baird cutter) cutting hairs of ladies, Similarly Congress and left parties have also spread the rumor that farmers will lose their land to corporate houses in contract farming. Congress is expert in knitting web of lies as done during Shaheen Bagh protest also, it had spread the rumor that all Muslims will lose Indian citizenship post CAA and would be forcibly sent to Pakistan. Such wild rumors come very handy for rabble-rousers.
The visuals of the tractors pushing and crushing police barricades from Singhu border show that the danger of protest turning violent is looming large. Though, in most of the cases the organizers and managers of protest themselves plan violence as the climax of protest, but sometimes it may lead to violence impromptu at the drop of a hat. In that case who should be held responsible for the loss of lives and property, the organizers of the protest cannot escape the accountability. When we enter a factory, the name of factory owner is displayed on reception for the purpose of legal responsibility and liability under factories act 1948. Similarly, A Heavy commercial vehicle may be owned by a company, driven by professional truck driver, still the name of the concerned head of company is written on it in order to fix legal liabilities under Motor Vehicle Act, in case of any mishap. The point I want to make is that organizer should be answerable for the acts of participating persons and responsibility of any violent activity should be fixed on the organizer from the day one. If any damage to any property or any injury to individual or loss of life happens, doctrine of Respondeat Superior should be applied and the organizers should be brought to books.
The steadfastness and earnestness with which Modi led BJP government has passed GST Bill, Triple Talaq Bill, CAA Bill and Agricultural reforms bills, it leave no room for doubt that government is resolute enough to take whatever hard steps necessary for the national interest and welfare of its citizens. It implies that many more revolutionary bills and decisions are going to come and the opposition parties, which are opposing even nation’s progress itself, will take recourse to blackmailing by organizing protests. In the light of above mentioned facts, I think, Honorable supreme court should step in to safeguard the rights of common citizens of India.
In the past also, Honorable Supreme Court has done exemplary work by issuing laws and policy through the means of its various judgments. Such laws and policy acted as a tool for action for government and have been beneficial for reducing the misery of common men, protecting his/her rights and for holding up the ethos and values of democracy. Example of such law is “Vikhaka guidelines” as stipulated by Honorable Supreme Court (Vishaka and others Vs State of Rajasthan, 1997) in a land mark decision. Vishakha guidelines were set of procedural guidelines to be followed in case of sexual harassment at work place. In the year 2010, a two judge bench of supreme ordered government to distribute free food grains to poor and paved the path for right to food (PUCL vs Union of India, 2011). In another landmark decision, Supreme Court got the model code of conduct implemented by Election commission of India. To save the citizens of Delhi from the perils of pollution, hearing on a PIL, in 1996 apex court ordered to convert all the public transport to CNG fuel in Delhi.
During Shaheen Bagh protest, in response to a PIL, a three judge bench of honorable supreme court has stated that it cannot make universal policy on right to protest as situation might vary case to case. But in the light of recent protests, whatever may vary from case to case but the fundamental right to life and personal liberty of common citizen is violated unapologetically by the protestors for sure in every case. It is time for honorable Supreme Court to revisit this earlier decision by referring the matter to larger bench. The variation which exists from case to case should not prevent formulation of universal guidelines or a model code which will help in defining what is allowed during protest and what is not.
Now, it is high time that Honorable Supreme Court lay down the directives for organizing protest. In my opinion following guidelines should be included:-
(1) First of all, one or two open and big ground should be earmarked as allowed protest sites in every city instead of roads or railway track. Apart from these designated places, nowhere else protests should be allowed.
(2) Before kick starting the protest, it should be mandatory for the organizers to submit the details about the organizing team, purpose of protest, charter of demands, proposed duration and justification for demands.
(3) The number of participants in protest with copy of their aadhar card should be submitted to the local administration. It will help in avoiding unscrupulous persons joining the protest.
(4) The amount of funds arranged for the protest and the source of funding should be declared.
(5) Identification of the lead organizer or lead group of organizer for the purpose of legal liabilities if protest turns violent or any untoward incident happen.
(6) If the organizers strictly follow all of the above guidelines, government may give permission for protest and arrange for toilet facility and basic health facility at the open ground chosen for protest.
Now if the Honorable Supreme Court formulates guidelines and code of conduct for protests, it will strengthen the real democracy which was envisaged in our constitution and which is being trampled upon by blackmailocracy of blockades and protests. Blackmailocracy has now become a tool in the hands of the political parties which earlier thrived on divisive and appeasement politics. Such political parties are now diabolically desperate as they have become irrelevant and struggling to survive in the era of developmental Politics initiated in India by Modi led BJP govt.
I hope, Modi government will not relent to the theatrics of stage-managed protest. I hope, it will not retract this big step taken in the direction of doubling the farmer’s income, It will stand for the poor farmer who is going to get benefit from these reforms but not coming on road as he is the real farmer and busy in his hard work at field, It will stand for the poor farmer who sweats for months to grow the vegetables but plough through fresh and standing crop due to fallen price which will not fetch him even the cost of transportation.
I hope, it will definitely stand for the teenage children of the horticulture farmers of various districts of Haryana who wake up 3 AM in the morning in winters not to prepare for board or competitive examinations but to go and sell their crop of flowers at the Ghazipur Flower Mandi of Delhi. They sacrifice their precious time and take the pain of transporting the flowers to Delhi to get better selling rate which will fetch them a few hundred rupees extra. I pray, it should stand for farmers of remote villages of rural India who have to pay the commission of the Aaddati and pay for transportation of their crop to the nearest Mandi which might be at least 30 to 40 Kms away from his farm. I hope, our government will bring the buyers of farm produce directly at the farm gate who will arrange for transportation themselves.
In last, I really hope, come what may, these three agriculture reform acts will continue as it is not only about getting more rates of crops but it is about empowering our farmers, it is about ameliorating the plight of rural women and households, it is about breaking the vicious circle of farmer distress, it is about giving more time to the daughters and sons of farmers to study, to participate in sports, to dream big for their future, who are now overly consumed in the semi efficient and semi productive agrarian activities.