HOW INDIAN FARMERS PROTEST TURN INTO A COUNTRY-WIDE MOVEMENT?

By Moksha Grover

In September 2020, three controversial farm laws passed by the Indian government sparked India’s biggest protest in history. Tens of thousands of farmers marched to the capital to protest proposed new legislation and upward of 250 million people around the subcontinent participated in a 24-hour general strike in solidarity[1]. This massive protest gained attention worldwide and led to millions of farmers’ protests worldwide. Between six and ten million people took part in protests in up to sixty countries over the weekend of 15 and 16 February[2]. Some of the largest protests took place in Europe. But what are actually farm laws? Why are farmers so worried? Why are these protests taking place? Let us take a brief understanding of all these points

WHAT ARE THE NEW FARM LAWS AND HOW WILL THEY AFFECT THE FARMERS?

The three farm laws Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 passed by the government last year have become a great source of attention due to farmers’ protests. Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at several Delhi border points since 26 November last year, demanding a repeal of the three farm laws[3]. These laws are said to dismantle the minimum support price system of the farmers and reduce their income. Due to the terms and conditions being handled by big corporate houses, farmers will get a less assured price for their crops, and also the commission agents who pitch in loans for them will be out of business. By weakening the government’s price guarantee system, the laws may end up hurting small and poor farmers, who form 80% of the sector and 23%of those who live below the poverty line, say critics[4]. Because of all these reasons farmers are protesting day and night and demanding a repeal of these laws.  It has now been 1 year since the farmers have been protesting and looking for the government to listen to their demands.

HOW DID FARMER’S PROTEST TURN INTO A PAN INDIA MOVEMENT?

As tens and thousands of farmers came together from different states of Punjab, and Haryana and started their protest by moving toward the capital of the country— New Delhi, they were stopped midway by the authorities from entering India’s capital. So, they started protesting on highways to New Delhi. The farmer’s protest is termed as the biggest protest in the history of the world wherein these farmers are supported by different farmers across the globe and also by big companies and brands like Marks & Spencers, Cover story, etc. Many people are supporting them by giving them food, clothes, money, etc.  There have been trials of talks between farmer unions and the government but the ultimate result of these trials has been failure. Several ministers and leaders from Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) have dismissed these farmers’ protests viewing them as demonstrations by a handful of wheat and rice-growing people only from Punjab and Haryana. This is very wrong on the part of government as government is accountable to all its citizens irrespective of the fact that whether they are just some handful of wheat growing farmers. Further, as the days went on, farmers from other parts of the country galvanized into action by either joining the protest near New Delhi or organizing a series of demonstrations in different states[5].

Besides their demand of withdrawal of the laws, farmers have another demand. Their second demand is that governmet has to pass a law in which they’ll buy all the farm produce at a state set guaranteed price. The new demand gained traction among farmers from across the country, beyond Punjab and Haryana – known as India’s grain belt[6].

UTTAR PRADESH— A STATE IN WHICH FARMER’S WANT TO INTENSIFY THEIR PROTESTS

Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state being home to around 240 million people. As farmer’s protest is being more intensified, the union leaders are turning their gaze towards Uttar Pradesh. Modi’s BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, and the state assembly election is due by early next year[7]. In western Utter Pradesh agriculture is a mainstay and before the state assembly elections, farmer’s union aim to declare Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) as an anti farmer party. To achieve this aim, it is said that farmers will go in every city and town of Uttar Pradesh and convey there to the people about the ignorance followed by Modi government to farmer’s interests. The election in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 lawmakers, or more than any other state, to parliament in New Delhi, is seen as a barometer of the popularity of the federal government[8]. Farmers now plan to hit the ruling party at the side which will hurt it the most.

HAS THE FARMER’S PROTEST LED TO THE COMING TOGETHER OF HINDU AND MUSLIMS FARMER’S?

In Western Uttar Pradesh, protests from Punjab and Haryana have turned up into a broad base movement. In western Uttar Pradesh, which sends 130 lawmakers to the state assembly, the upper caste landlords from the Jat community and the farmhands who typically come from the lower strands of the rigid Hindu social hierarchy have joined hands to oppose the farm laws[9]. The most remarkable point about this protest is that Hindu and Muslim farmers have come together to fight against the laws put up by the government breaking away all the communal clashes that had taken place between the two communities. It is said that the unity followed by the two communities will hurt the ruling party. However, BJP has denied fanning communal tension.


[1] Nitish Pahwa, ‘India Just Had the Biggest Protest in World History’, Slate (9th December,2020) < https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/12/india-farmer-protests-modi.html> accessed 13th September, 2021.

[2] ‘2020–2021 Indian farmers’ protest’, Wikipedia < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020%E2%80%932021_Indian_farmers%27_protest> accessed 13th September,2021

[3] ‘Explained: What farmers want and why they are protesting’, mint (26th January, 2021) https://www.livemint.com/news/india/what-farmers-want-and-why-they-are-protesting-11611662903629.html accessed 13th September,2021

[4] ‘Why Farmers Are Worried About New Laws; It’s The History’, Bloomerang Quint (2nd December,2020) < https://www.bloombergquint.com/politics/why-farmers-are-worried-about-new-laws-its-the-history> accessed 13th September,2021

[5] Manisha Sen, ‘How Indian farmers’ protest turned into a country-wide movement’, The Sen Times (9th September, 2021) < https://www.tkbsen.in/2021/09/how-indian-farmers-protest-turned-into-a-country-wide-movement/> accessed 13th September,2021.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Mayank Bhardwaj, ‘Explainer: How Indian farmers’ protest turned into a country-wide movement’, Reuters (September 9, 2021) https://www.reuters.com/world/india/how-indian-farmers-protest-turned-into-country-wide-movement-2021-09-09/ accessed 13th September,2021