Stop Waging War against our Farmers

Feb 15, 2024
Tags: farmers protest, state violence, tear gas, pellets
Related Issue: State Repression, Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, Right to Freedom of Association

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties strongly condemns the Union Government’s repressive measures against the protesting farmers who are exercising their fundamental rights in demanding a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price (MSP), full waiver of farmers’ debts, pensions to farmers, and withdrawal of cases filed in 2020-21 against the protesting farmers.

We are appalled by the display of brute force by the BJP-led Union Government and the Haryana Government in dealing with the farmers’ protests. The measures include:

  1. Layers of heavy blockades made up of barbed wires, nails, and huge containers set up at the borders to prevent the farmers from entering the NCR region.
  2. Section 144 enforced in certain parts of Delhi, and Haryana.
  3. Makeshift prisons set up at various points to prevent the farmers from carrying on their march.
  4. Internet shutdowns in several districts of Haryana.

What is even more disturbing is the use of:

  1. Rubber bullets
  2. Long Range Acoustic Devices or Sonic Devices capable of causing hearing
    impairments; and
  3. Using drone-based tear-gas launchers developed by the Border Security Force (BSF)

The tactics adopted by the Union and State Governments raises a fundamental question: Does the Union Government consider the protesting farmers as citizens of India or as enemy aliens?

‘Samyukta Kisan Morcha’ (Non-political), Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM) and the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) and many other workers unions had called for and set out on the `Dilli Chalo’ march on 13th February 2024, to condemn the Union government’s failure in upholding the promise given in 2021 following the year-long farmers protest. PUCL would like to point out that the farmers protest in 2020 – 2021 saw thousands of women and men farmers, workers unions and others participating in the protest braving adverse weather conditions which resulted in the death of over 700 farmers. The Modi-government has failed to comply with the public assurances given to the farmers based on which they had called off the struggle in 2021.

It should be pointed out that the current actions were decided only after talks between farmers unions and government failed, with the farmer’s unions alleging that the government engaged in talks only as a means to delay and avoid implementation of assurances.

PUCL strongly denounces the undemocratic, tyrannical response of the Union Government to the farmers’ march. Instead of any substantial attempt to engage in good faith dialogue to address the farmers’ grievances, the State has chosen to use force and repression to suppress their voice. In what should be a matter of terrifying concern and shame to every Indian citizen, it has employed tactics normally used against enemies in wartimes, against its own citizens!

Reports have been coming in about the effect of the violence with around 200 farmers having been left injured by the highhandedness of the police.

Apart from the strong-arm tactics used, several social media accounts of prominent farmer leaders/unions on X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook were withheld ahead of the Delhi March. The Haryana government had also imposed Internet shutdown and a ban on bulk messaging in seven districts. These prohibitory measures, along with sealing off of the Delhi borders, have been challenged in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.

The brutal crackdown also highlights the hypocrisy of the Union government. In the same week of conferring the country’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, to Mr. Charan Singh, a celebrated farmers’ leader and former Prime Minister, and to Dr. MS Swaminathan, an agricultural scientist, the Union government has deployed violent measures to prevent farmers from exercising their democratic rights. The height of irony is that the farmers are demanding the implementation of MS Swaminathan Committee Report, while the government steadfastly refuses to adopt the recommendations which support MSP and other farmer welfare measures.

We wish to point out that instead of recognising the demands of the farmers as a matter of their right to life and livelihood, the state is treating them as criminals and their struggle as a `law and order’ problem to be suppressed.

We believe the actions of the Union Government, Haryana government, and the Delhi Police expose the deep mistrust that the present disposition has against its own citizens, and the functioning of a police-state in the place of democracy.

Their actions, are in violation of the Article 19(1) (a), (b), and (d), resulting in the trampling of the farmers right to express, assemble peacefully, and move freely between the states of India. These constitutional rights are the heart of any democracy as it is only by the peaceful expression of opinion through public assemblies and marches that change can be brought about.

In fact, Babasaheb Ambedkar defined a democracy as ‘a form and a method of government whereby revolutionary changes in the economic and social life of the people are brought about without bloodshed.’ It is this essence, of what makes India a vibrant democracy in the eyes of its founders, that is being shut down before our eyes.

PUCL expresses its solidarity with the protesting farmer unions and organisations, and all the farmers who are asserting their constitutional and fundamental right to expression, movement, and assembly. The protesting farmers are by this very assertion, reclaiming the Indian Constitution for all of us.