Dispatches from India: Dissecting the growth story

Peoples Dispatch | September 15, 2022

In this episode, we take a look at the numbers being India being declared the world’s fifth largest economy. We also hear from an all-India students’ rally demanding a fair education system and learn why the country’s IT hub went under water recently.

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India: One square meal: How this non-tribal forest-dweller family survives without FRA recognition in Odisha

Sanghamitra Dubey, Ravisha Poddar

Down to Earth | November 28, 2021

Srikumar Khadi’s great-grandparents moved to Bhuin-Jor from Dhamakpur in Odisha’s Sundergarh district around 100 years ago. They were offered a small piece of land in the forest by Bhuin-Jor’s inhabitants.

They settled in the forest with the passage of time and started using the land as a homestead. They also used to cultivate basic food products for their livelihood.

Today, a few generations later, Srikumar Khadi, a 55-year-old descendent of the Khadi family, lives on the same land. The land, which is about 12 to 20 decimals in area, serves as a home for his family of seven.

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India: The Peasantry’s Victory over Imperialism

Prabhat Patnaik

People’s Democracy | November 28, 2021

PARTICULAR battles often have a significance that goes beyond the immediate context, of which even the combatants may not be fully aware at the time. One such was the Battle of Plassey, which was not even a battle since one side’s general had already been bribed by the other not to lead his troops against it; and yet what happened in the woods of Plassey that day ushered in a whole new epoch in world history.

The battle between the kisan movement and the Modi government falls into the same genre. At the most obvious level it has been seen as a climbdown by the Modi government in the face of the incredible resoluteness shown by the agitating peasants. At another level it has also been seen as a setback for neo-liberalism, since corporate ascendancy over the agricultural sector, by making peasant agriculture subservient to the corporates, is a crucial part of the neo-liberal agenda, which the farm laws were seeking to promote.

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Indian Farmers’ Victory: Politics of Mass Struggle

Brinda Karat

People’s Democracy | November 28, 2021

THE historic victory of the kisan struggle in forcing the government to roll back the anti-farmer, pro-corporate three farm laws underlines the importance of the politics of mass struggle. The strength of the farmers’ united movements under the leadership of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha put the government on the defensive with the struggle organically transforming into a mass struggle against the BJP and its governments at the centre and states. This transformation with direct and spontaneous kisan mobilisations against BJP leaders’ visits to villages in Haryana and Western UP was linked to the real life experiences of the kisans themselves of the arrogant and aggressive promotion of corporate interests when kisans were suffering due to a variety of reasons created by government policies. The Lakhimpur Kheri atrocity symbolised both realities – that of kisan mobilisation and the other of the brutal nature of the BJP response.

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‘They Are Not Just Numbers’: Families of Farmers Who Died During Protest Demand Justice

“Had the protest ended soon, my family would have been together today,” says the wife of a farmer who killed himself at the Tikri border.

Sumedha Pal

The Wire | November 26, 2021

'They Are Not Just Numbers': Families of Farmers Who Died During Protest Demand Justice
Representational image: Farmers during a protest against the Central government in front of the FCI office on Sirhind Road in Patiala, April 5, 2021. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: “The government is not listening to us alive. Hopefully, it will hear us out when we are dead.” These were the last words of 42-year-old Jai Bhagwan, a farmer from Haryana. 

Bhagwan, like several others from his village, was a regular at the Tikri border protest site ever since the farmers’ protest began last year against the three contentious farm laws.

“He would volunteer all the time. He would be present at the protest site all the time and urge everybody to join the protest. His last words still ring in my ears all the time,” says Bhagwan’s wife, Renu Rana, who is yet to come to terms with her partner’s death. Bhagwan consumed poison at the protest site and killed himself.

“If it wasn’t for the protest, my family would have been together today,” she adds. 

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India: Police Brutality, FIRs and a Hostile Khattar Govt: What Haryana Farmers Overcame

From supplying food to border protesters to physically lifting barricades on a crucial day, farmers in Haryana ‘kept the protest alive with blood.’

Vivek Gupta

The Wire | November 30, 2021

Police Brutality, FIRs and a Hostile Khattar Govt: What Haryana Farmers Overcame
Police use water cannon to disperse farmers who were protesting against Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s Kisan Mahapanchayat rally in Kaimla village, in Karnal, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. Photo: PTI/File

Chandigarh: The protest against the farm laws mainly centred around Punjab. Yet two developments played a vital role behind taking them to Delhi’s doors and onto international spheres.

First, representatives of around 30 Punjab farmers’ unions that later became part of Sanyuta Kisan Morcha that conducted the protests at the national stage decided in a meeting on October 27, 2020, to take their stir beyond Punjab’s borders.

Second, on November 20, 2020, the SKM itself was formed, when the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh and various factions of Bharatiya Kisan Union came together. A meeting in Chandigarh in connection with the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march on November 26 saw farmers resolve to march together.

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The Anatomy of a Successful Protest, or How the Farmers Won Their Fight

In a circumstance where one side controls institutions like the media, police and other organs of the state, the success of a movement rests on developing creative means of breaking through the government’s control over institutions.

Shivam Shankar Singh and Anand Venkatanarayanan

The Wire | November 23, 2021

The Anatomy of a Successful Protest, or How the Farmers Won Their Fight
People stand in front of candles lit at the Singhu border farmers agitation site to celebrate Prime Minister Narendra Modis announcement of repealing the three Central farm laws, at Singhu Border in New Delhi, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. Photo: PTI/Arun Sharma

Why do some protest movements succeed while others fail?

There are three major elements that determine the success of a protest. The foremost amongst these is the ability of a movement to establish narrative dominance and get its message across. Next is understanding who the opposing forces are and developing the resources to counter them. The tactics of protest against a corporate entity look very different from those required to mount a successful protest against the government, an entity with unlimited resources at its disposal. And lastly, any movement must grow its support base beyond its core supporters if it is to succeed.

In theory, the validity of the grievance plays a major role in determining if a movement can gain traction. But in a circumstance where one side controls institutions like the media, police and other organs of the state, the success of a movement rests on developing creative means of breaking through the government’s control over institutions – or sidestepping it.

The farmers’ protest is an apt illustration of how this can be done.

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India’s Farmers Have Shown the Way to the Long Democratic Pushback

The farmers quite nicely did understand the fake nature of the claims sought to be made for the laws, which is why their mobilisation remained unbreached by the various shenanigans resorted to by the establishment.

Badri Raina

The Wire | November 23, 2021

India’s Farmers Have Shown the Way to the Long Democratic Pushback
People walk past candles lit at the farmers agitation site near Singhu border to celebrate repealing the three farm laws, New Delhi, November 19, 2021. Photo: PTI/Arun Sharma

It can be said with confidence that the year-long peaceful satyagraha by India’s farmers has made a watershed contribution to returning democracy to the beleaguered republic.

This historic movement has been marked by some exemplary features:

Foremost, the protesting farmers have evinced, to the last man and woman, in fact even child, a comprehensive and sophisticated grasp of the ideological import of the three farm laws (now happily set to be repealed).

No disingenuous diversion or fake interpretation managed to shake down that clarity.

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The Leaders Who Shaped, Guided and Sustained the Farmers’ Movement

The yearlong movement could survive due to the overwhelming support it received. Here are some of the people who were responsible for securing it.

Vivek Gupta

The Wire | November 20, 2021

The Leaders Who Shaped, Guided and Sustained the Farmers' Movement
Yogendra Yadav, Rakesh Tikait, Harinder Bindu, Darshan Pal, and Balbir Singh Rajewal. Photos: Twitter and File

Chandigarh: A former solider, a doctor, a psephologist, a Jat leader, a women’s rights activist are just some of those who brought the mighty Modi government to its knees.

Some of them played a key role in sustaining the farmers’ protest for close to a year. This, in turn, has redefined public movement in India and it will keep inspiring all future movements.

Their leadership helped bridge the left-right political divide, and paved the way for farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to assemble on a common platform and fight the long battle.

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India: A Winter’s Night With the Farmers at Delhi’s Tikri Border

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi announces that the three farm laws will be repealed, Rohit Kumar recounts one story of the farmers who are on protest.

Rohit Kumar

The Wire | November 20, 2021

A Winter’s Night With the Farmers at Delhi’s Tikri Border 
Gurnam Singh (in yellow turban), Jasbir Kaur Natt and Sukhdarshan Natt inside a tent at Tikri border. Photo: Rohit Kumar

On November 19, nearly a year after the farmers’ protest began, Narendra Modi announced his government’s decision to repeal the three farm laws. As I watched the prime minister on TV, my mind went back to the scores of visits I have made to Delhi’s borders to document the stories of the farmers on protest, and as I did, one memory stood out above the rest. The memory of a winter’s night at Tikri border.

I still recall the trepidation I felt as I called Jasbir Kaur Natt to ask if I could stay over at the ‘Trolley Times’ tent. Jasbir Kaur (or Beeji as she is called) is a senior leader with the Punjab Kisan Union and has been helping to manage the Tirki protest site for a year now. She told me I was most welcome.

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