As a proud Hindu, I was glued to my television watching India’s spectacular Republic Day celebration even 10,000 km away in the United States. It was a display of the stronger and emerging New India’s democracy, development, and an “Atma-Nirbhar” (self-reliant) Bharat in the making. The celebrations were deeply rooted in the culture, valor, and military-might making everyone proud even during the pandemic environment.
What was shocking and sad that January 26, the day when independent India’s constitution was unveiled, became the battleground of unruly and despicable behavior in the name of “Annadata,” the farmers who toil the land with their sweat and grow food to feed the millions. Sadly, those who breached the police barricades and misbehaved with the law and order personnel were not representing the millions of small farmers but unduly harnessing political profits and gaining unwarranted notoriety under their guise.
The most deplorable act in independent Bharat was the desecration of the historic Red Fort by those who were allowed the tractor rally and peaceful protests under India’s constitution on the pre-approved routes. The images showing tractors running wild and breaking barricades, the crowd chasing the police force and attacking them with swords and sticks. India had not witnessed the magnitude of the ransacking of the grounds and the interior of the Red Fort any time in recent history. The mob and hooligans, in my informed view, were neither the farmers nor their well-wishers but fully backed by political parties opposing team Modi’s accomplishments and outside forces, from as far as the U.S. and Canada, fueling the fire about the Khalistan movement of the yesteryears.
These misguided individuals committed the most unimaginable and unprecedented act of hoisting an unauthorized flag over India’s tricolor in the Red Fort, a proud symbol of the sacrifices by the millions for securing the independence of Bharat from the invaders. I call it the insurrection by India’s own who must be dealt with the highest punishment under the law. Their attack on the Red Fort was no less than an attempt of coup d’état and the most undemocratic act since independence in 1947. In many ways, the insurrection of the Capitol Hill in the United States on January 6, incited by then President Trump, parallels what happened in India on January 26 groomed by the dozens of leaders.
Being born in a family with limited farming and spending a few months each year, I know first-hand how miserable a true farmer’s life is on day to day basis. They show discontent about many policies through dialog and small protests, generally, within the confines of the district. The poor and fearful farmers are cared very little by the police and government officers, yet they have learned to live with their miseries for decades. I know for a fact that true farmers and the Annadata in the villages don’t have the resources and time to protest for months in and around Delhi.
I have followed the failed negotiations between the union leaders and the government. The so-called union leaders had no intentions to find an amicable solution. They simply exploited the farmers many of whom stood to lose big as middlemen in the Mandis. They are used to buying farm products at prices of their choosing even if there is a “minimum” price set by the government with little recourse because of deep-rooted corruption. They treat the poorly educated farmers with extreme disdain and disrespect. I speak with confidence that an Annadata will never resort to violence, destruction, despair, and an unrespectable act of flag hoisting at the Red Fort.
The most disturbing and disgusting is the union leader (Rakesh Tikait) laying blame and calling on police to have fired on the demonstrators in the Red Fort rather than appreciating their utmost valor and tolerance. The law and order personnel deserve our sincerest appreciation and the lawless demonstrators and their leaders the highest punishment. No crime can be bigger than the threat to India’s democracy by the home-grown extremists and traitors, and no punishment is big enough for them.
I challenge India’s legal system to charge the accused for the highest crime and punish appropriately including full reimbursement for the property damage caused by their actions. Let there be a clear and strong message by the Supreme court that while India will uphold every citizen’s right to peaceful protest, any form of attack on India’s sovereignty, democracy, and independence will not be tolerated.
As I write, I express appreciation to the union leaders who are expressing remorse and apologizing for the despicable act of destruction and damage. But those like Tikait must be called to the carpet and punished for inciting violence, threatening democracy, and desecration of the Red Fort. The law and order personnel must be commended for their tolerance while under attack by the violent protestors. I hope that the deplorable acts of violence and destruction are the beginning of an end to the farmer’s protest in opposition to the lawfully enacted Acts by the Parliament. The farmers may persuade the government to amend the Farmer Bills through well-intended negotiations if it benefits the farmers at large.
May Bharat’s democracy and harmonious pluralism continue undivided and unchallenged by anyone inside and beyond her borders. Bharat’s call for becoming “Atma- Nirbhar” is deeply rooted in its unity in diversity, and sustained democracy.