Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repeal of all three farm laws on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti. The contentious farm bills which were made into laws on 27.09.2020 had drawn furies of Farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana since the day of its enactment. They are basically the rich farmers of the states who benefit from the large scale buying from FCI at MSP. It is a fact that almost 90% of total rice and wheat cultivated in these both states being bought by FCI at MSP leaving other states at bay.
It is also a fact that less than 10% of the farmers sell their product at Mandi at MSP. For more than 90% of the farmers, price of their crops depends of Market. I am not here to make arguments in support of farms laws, experts have already written about it. I would like to discuss the way people think about any non-violent protest and come to defend it for the sake of defending the Democracy. This inter-alia relation of non-violence protest and safeguarding of Democracy needs to be checked and questioned.
The undemocratic nature of protestors
While we basically assume that if a protest is non-violent then it must be in the resonance of democratic spirit, the very attitude of protestors could make it undemocratic. Starting from 03.12.2020 when Government held first talk with farmers to the total 11 talks between government and farmers, farmers rejects each and every proposal that came in way. From amendments to suspension of laws for one and half year and appointing a joint committee, Farmers rejects them all without having even a thought on those suggestions.
Even farmers reject SC appointee committee and remained firm of their non-negotiable demand of repealing the all three laws. This nature of farmers can be said anything but democratic. This was more of a display power by few who could afford to sit at border over a year all thanks to their wealth and support. The worrying part is not what farmers did, but the way Indian intellectuals, media and even Hon’ble Supreme Court hesitated to point the very undemocratic nature of protestors shows the confusion line between non-violent protest and undemocratic nature of protestors. However this is not a new phenomenon in context of India. We have seen the misuse of concept of non-violence even before we got freedom.
Legacy of past and its continuation
Whether it was Puna pact, or creation of Andhra Pradesh, the first state created on the basis of language, or overturning the Shah Bano Judgment of SC, all these were dictated by non-violent protests. For many, each of above mentioned decisions dictated by non-violent protest, were basically irrational demands and they should have been debated upon rather being forced upon by the opinions of some peaceful protestors. So why it is often the case that we chose to ignore the veracity of demands rather celebrate the protest itself?
When a non-violent protest happens, people see it as a tenet of democracy and no matter how illogical and irrational demands are, they become fearful that if they speak against it, they would be speaking against the spirit of democracy itself. This is a very flawed concept. India, having a 130 crores population, it is not a big task for a group to organize a protest of thousands of men and women and demand something that they think right. In recent years we have seen the protests of Patels in Gujarat and Marathas in Maharashtra for reservation in their respective states. But both the groups have failed to put any qualifying data to show why they should be given reservation at all. Just because those were non-violent protests, they got scot free without getting much and fierce rebuttal by Indian intellectuals and Media.
Why scrutinization of demands is must
As we have already seen in the recent years, protests by special group for the specific demands which are neither rational nor logical have become new phenomena in Indian political discourse. Protests for reservation by the ruling class of society are perfect examples of this trend. If the scrutinization of demands doesn’t take place, this would usher to a new political scenario, where groups having dominant share of voting populations would dictate the government to fall into their demands, no matter how their demands would be. In guise of spirit of democracy, we must not let different social groups to overdose their narrow thinking to whole India. What if a large group of people sits on non-violent Dharna to make this country a reservation free country? Or a group sits on fasts till death for making it a vegetarian country?
Non-violent protest and Democratic spirit are different
As it has been already discussed that it is not necessarily for a non-violent protest to be in resonance with democratic spirit. To bull doze country with prejudice view of a group by sitting on road for indefinitely is not democratic spirit, especially when the protestors are not ready for any sort of negotiations. Democracy is not about ‘My way or Highway’; rather it is a character of Autocracy. Democratic spirit is about talks, negotiations, convincing people, to have open mind to listen to others and to show signs of flexibility. Also non-violence must not be seen only as physical violence. Non-flexibility of thoughts also must be taken into account. Sufferings of lakhs of people, bringing down the economic activities, blocking roads indefinitely for a demand that requires much deliberations and talks between various stock holders can’t be necessarily called as Democratic spirit. It would be more a case of ‘only I am right and I have the right to enforce what I deem to think as right’. This idea of enforcement shouldn’t be praised in a democratic setup.
We shouldn’t hesitate to call out undemocratic nature of protestors and question the legitimacy of demands without being fearful for being labeled as antagonists of Democracy.