Farmers across the country have geared up to escalate their protests against the farm laws, as the government remains adamant in its commitment to its crony capitalists. The talks yesterday failed as three Union ministers part of the negotiations said it was not possible to commit to a rollback of the legislation without “consultations with higher authorities”.
Who are these mysterious higher authorities whom they dare not name? Do they mean the Pradhan Sevak Himself, who is after all, within tweeting distance at all times, and could have deigned to talk to the farmers’ representatives; or do they mean his paymasters?
Meanwhile 60 farmers have died at the Singhu Border protest site alone, according to doctors, to deafening silence from this utterly shameless government, that has tear-gassed and lathi charged its people, and forced them to brave the bitter cold and torrential rain in protest at these laws, which will wreak devastation on agriculture and on food security for all.
But the most revealing statement of all comes from the Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, an explicit admission of the total loss of legitimacy of his government. On December 13, 2020, in an interview, he said:
“You remember, when the Bill to repeal Article 370 from Kashmir was brought, there were such Leftist elements who were opposing its removal. When the Citizenship Amendment Bill came… they opposed it. When the agrarian reform Bills came, these were also opposed. When the issue of Ram temple came up, it was also opposed. There are some people who just have to oppose and it has become their intention to weaken the country.”
But Mr Tomar, when every single legislation a government passes, and every step taken by state institutions under its regime, is opposed by hundreds of thousands of people, and each one by entirely different sections, then that government has essentially lost legitimacy to rule.
And if unidentified “Leftist elements”, “tukde tukde gangs” and “jihadis” are able to convince hundreds of thousands, while the government fails to do so, then evidently that government does not have the confidence of the people.
It is as simple as that.
The Modi government seems to believe that the deeply doubtful May 2019 election “sweep” has given it the power to take over Parliament. All opposing voices even inside Parliament are literally silenced – during the passage of the farm bills in the Rajya Sabha, the audio telecast of the live proceedings was muted, cutting off viewers from what members of Parliament were saying, as the farm bills were hurriedly passed over the protests of the Opposition. Question Hour was cancelled earlier “due to Covid” and the Winter Session of parliament too, a step that no other democratic government in the world has taken.
As Abhik Chimni pointed out in an earlier post
… an elected Government and its policies implemented through Parliamentary legislation and executive orders are only the primary step towards a constitutional democracy. This is because our constitution provides for mechanisms through the chapters on individual rights and autonomous institutions not only
- to seek remedy in situations where state-made law falls foul of the ideas on which the Indian Constitution is premised, but also
- to seek opinion building through different forms of speech when the State fails to exercise its duty towards constitutionalism.
Let us take just the four instances that Tomar cites, setting aside for the moment the multiple ways in which this government has in 5 years, brazenly subverted institutions, suppressed all dissent to it through heavy police action and imprisonments, sold away public assets to its crony capitalists and reduced the country to chaos while those close to it line their pockets. Each instance reveals the contempt in which this government holds the Constitutional provisions of equality, justice, and the freedom to express the view that this is the case.
First, Kashmir. The abrogation of Article 370 has turned Kashmir into a vast prison with political leaders under house arrest, a media policy that muzzles freedom of the press, and has turned everyday life into a nightmare. Within 75 days of the abrogation of Article 370, 125 projects were cleared in just 3 meetings, diverting forest land for “development” projects, the details of which were not divulged to journalists. Also within a week of lock-down being declared, the government issued a Gazette Notification changing the domicile rules for Jammu and Kashmir, to define as resident anybody who has lived for 15 years in the former state, or studied there for 7 years and so on – essentially opening up Kashmir for settlement by non-Kashmiris, an old RSS dream. This decision in fact, fulfills the demands of both aspects of the current regime – Hindu supremacism and predatory capitalism, because land can now be bought by outsiders for any purpose, including commercial.
Second, the CAA, which is the first step towards the complete disenfranchisement of Muslims, as far too many writers have shown, to cite. But listen to Suhrith Parthasarthy, a Madras High Court advocate who specialises in constitutional law for a quick summary of the reasons why the CAA is unconstitutional.
Third, the Supreme Court judgement on the Babri Masjid demolition declared the demolition of the mosque to have been a criminal act, but nevertheless, handed over the site to the Hindu petitioners, and asked the government to set up a trust for the construction of the Ram temple. That is, the Supreme Court asked the still nominally secular state to ensure the construction of a Hindu temple at the site of a mosque demolished by the very forces that run the current government.
Fourth, the farm laws, which too, have been conclusively proved to be not just anti-farmer, but destructive of food security for all. See here for a point by point refutation of government claims that these laws will benefit farmers.
In short, Mr Tomar, by your own words, your government has lost all legitimacy. The Modi government must not only repeal the farm laws, it must resign.