Protests, Violence and Propaganda – The State of Indian Farmers and Democracy

India flag democracy

Last Updated: 6th February 2021

Table of Contents

  1. Background to the Indian Farm Bills 2020
  2. Indian Farmers Peaceful Protests
  3. The Talks and Negotiations
  4. Republic Day and the Farmer’s Protests Violence
  5. Identifying the Propaganda and Taking the Next Educated Step to Save The World’s Largest Democracy
  6. Why is it only a few states that are protesting against the farm bills?
  7. The narrative around Sikh representation being threatening or terrorist
  8. What about decades of congress rule that failed to solve farmers issues?
  9. Suppression of Freedom of Speech
  10. Unpacking the Peace-Violence Protest Propaganda
  11. The Double Standards and Flawed Narrative of “Internal Matters”
  12. The Incomplete Reporting of IMF and USA’s opinions on the Bills
  13. Problematic Internal Beliefs

Background to the Indian Farm Bills 2020

In early 2020, the Indian government hurriedly passed three bills that sought to revolutionise the agricultural sector. As planned, the agricultural sector did revolutionise, unfortunately not in the style planned by those who rushed to pass it with zero consultation. Instead of bags of cash or grain reaching the farmer’s pockets, the nation saw the largest protest in its history.

The three bills that were passed in 2020:

  1. Farmers Produce, Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill
  2. Farmer’s (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill  
  3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. 

For more information on what these bills mean and what you can expect from them, consider reading the following sources, as the remainder of the post will focus on the protests, riots, and debunk the campaign of propagandists and fascists.

  1. The Written Revolutions Article on the Indian Agricultural Crisis (Published 9th December 2020)
  2. Decades of Issues: Farmers of India (Video)
  3. Research Gate Paper Discussing the Aggravating Crisis of the Indian Agricultural Sector with Emphasis on the New Indian Agricultural Bills (Published October 2020)
  4. Explained (Video): Why farmers don’t trust Modi government’s word on farm laws
  5. Overall Protest and Bills Overview (Infographic).

I believe if the same bills were passed with certain modifications or at a later time after few other problems being sorted (all of these details are discussed in the links above), they would have worked out in the way the government claims they are meant to at this point.

Indian Farmers Peaceful Protests

The protests initially began in multiple northern Indian states and also received solidarity from diaspora communities abroad.

As reported in early December, 2020, several farmers arrived in a convoy of tractors, some walked, and in response tens of thousands of police and paramilitary troops were deployed to halt their march. This led to clashes between the two groups with enormous violent crackdown cited at the hands of the police towards the peaceful protesters. Many sources claim that “in several places, police fired tear gas shells and used water cannons to try to beat them back.”

The following image is one of many many sources that were cited to prove the violence at the hands of the police against peaceful protesters.

A police officer raises his baton to hit an Indian farmer
Source: Ravi Choudhary, a photojournalist with Press Trust of India (PTI) as reported by BBC.

Some believe that the above picture is misrepresented and that the farmer was not hit. However, among many other sources, you can confirm that the farmer was hit here, here, or here. The latter source offers a bonus and also proves that not just this image, but many other instances of police-sponsored violence towards the farmers was true.

The media and andhbhakts (blind followers) claim that there is a demand for Khalistan and that the protest has been hijacked. There are also several claims stating that the Khalistani flags have replaced the Indian tricolour at the Red Fort. However, much of this information stands false. In many cases, the so-called evidence used to show the existence of Khalistani demands is outdated pictures or things taken out of context and/or misreported. There is no doubt that flags were raised at the Red Fort, except, they were a Sikh symbolism and not a Khalistani uproar.

Fact-Check: Flags Hoisted at Red Fort Neither Replaced Tricolour, Nor  Promoted Khalistan
Source: The Wire

You can confirm this here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or here (each word is a hyperlink). Tens of other fact checks can be found as well regarding the case along with the original sources of the pictures and videos that were posted out of context. Several sources also show that Indians blindly picked up baseless accusations of Khalistan to invalidate the demands of the protest. You can confirm this here.

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Despite this, the matter gets even more complicated. Sources also claim that the flag was hoisted by a group of people unrelated to the farmers, possibly on behalf of the BJP to complicate matters and feed the propaganda. You can further read on this opinion here, or here. The following Tweet shows a farmers’ union president condemning the flag hoisting and the stunt pulled off by the non-farmer actor.

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Even when the farmers planned to expand the protest to a pan-India scale in December 2020, their methods comprised of hunger strikes and blockades among other things and no rioting.

The movement is a lot deeper than just what the farmers want, it goes on to a protest against the assertive fascist route that the government is taking as well. The following source provides a lot more insight on the farmer stereotype and deeper meanings behind the protests that go beyond just agriculture: How Narendra Modi Misread the Mood of India’s Angry Farmers.

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The Talks and Negotiations

There are solutions. But the farmers don’t trust the government,” says Pratap Bhanu Mehta, professor of political science at Ashoka University. Keeping this in mind, the farmers most likely imagine the “delaying” in putting the laws into effect of 12-18 months as a measure of buying time to figure a way to continue enforcing the laws and not genuine concern. This distrust, as discussed before, also goes on to a deeper level beyond agriculture. Many believe that if the government is allowed to pass bills in such an undemocratic manner, they will gain confidence to do the same with other sectors in future.

The major demand of farmer unions has been a complete repeal of the three laws. The talks have shown lack of compromise from the side of farmers to take any other alternatives apart from that. The Agriculture Minister believes that one of the problems lies within the intentions of the farmers itself as it just Punjab and a few other states. The government’s proposal to set up a joint committee is also rejected and we can tell why based on the previous paragraph on distrust.

They believe that the bills were passed for the benefit of the farmers but this brings us back to the initial question, why was there no consultation during the drafting process if that was the case? And why can’t they repeal the laws now, and draft new ones with adequate consultation?

One of the other suggestions comes from Union defence minister Rajnath Singh, who requested the farmers community to try the laws as an experiment. Quite honestly, experimenting with laws that called the biggest protest in Indian history that directly impacts about half of India’s workforce is a horrible lottery to participate in.

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Republic Day and the Farmer’s Protest Violence

Many farmers, union presidents, entire unions, and even opposition politicians have condemned the violence that took place while also recognising the demands that have been raised by the many farmer unions since the bills were passed. While violence did take place, protest leaders condemn the violence and accuse its perpetration onto rogue elements and actors. Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella group of protesting farmers among many others, stated that they “condemn and regret the undesirable and unacceptable events and dissociate ourselves from those indulging in such acts.

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You can view a more comprehensive article on condemnation of extremism here: ‘No place for such incidents’ – Congress condemns violence at Farmers’ Tractor Rally.

In the previous section of this post, I provided multiple sources and text showing that the farmer’s peaceful protest was responded to with violence since the very beginning. Despite that, the farmers had no major violent uprising. Of course, violence should never be the way to go, but that does not mean that we throw our critical thinking outside the window and refuse to understand the roots of why it happened. Kawalpreet Singh Pannu (Kisan Sangharsh Samiti President) told AFP news agency, “when you attack a peaceful protest, then difficulties for the government will surely increase.

Despite the aforementioned points, the inside-Delhi march has been associated with rogue elements led by Deep Sindhu and Lakha Sidhana. They’ve taken up leadership roles in the protest despite opposition from farmer unions by acting aligned to the original outside-Delhi plan of the campaign. Yet, when they had the chance, they changed plans and led part of the campaign inside Delhi to the Red Fort, causing much of the perpetrated violence. You can enter “Deep Sidhu” in your search engine and you will be greeted with tens of articles and videos giving you further information. You can also view direct discourse with Deep Sidhu on his Facebook profile.

Chauri Chaura Incident and Indian democracy in 2021
Source: Cultural India

Update: All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) Note, 27th January 2021

Update added to blog: 28th January 2021. Many questions have been raised by the All India Kisan Sabha regarding the incidents that took place. If you have your doubts about the other sources I’ve used in this post, consider taking this one seriously.

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In 1922, a clash between police and volunteers of Gandhi’s non-cooperation and the Khilafat movement led to a mob burning down a police station. This was an act outside the tenets of Gandhi and the Khilafat movement and was condemned. That situation is very similar to what is happening now. Would you also believe that the existence of rogue elements in the 1920s completely invalidate the non-cooperation movement? The extremism was condemned but the understanding of why the noncooperation took place wasn’t eroded.

Slightly different from the aforementioned comparison, sources also claim that the groups around the Red Fort were not violently present. It was only when the forces surrounded them and lathi-charged, the violence broke out in response.

Identifying the Propaganda and Taking the Next Educated Step to Save The World’s Largest Democracy

I offer my condolences to all the families who have suffered harm and damage because of the protests and the rioting violence. I do not stand in support of violence taking place or support any breakaway states in this context (Khalistan). I also affirm that I would never support the disrespecting of a national flag despite how needed a protest may be. I also want to make clear that I stand by the identity of our nation and have nothing against the Indian identity but a lot against the government. I want everyone to recognise that the identity of the nation-state and the ruling government is NOT the same thing. You can love your country but disagree with those who control it. I make all these affirmations to make my standing clear, as I met with responses accusing me of ‘terrorist sympathising’ and ‘pro-violence’. However, I also condemn where the focus of media and their viewers has gone in the face of new updates.

Why is it only a few states that are protesting against the farm bills?

There is another phrase going around amidst the protest seeking to delegitimize it asking why is all of India not in this protest? As long as people fail to do independent research and think for themselves, questions like these continue to linger and make meaningful conversation difficult. The answer is simple. India is a large country and the state of agriculture is not the same in every region. Thereby obviously, the impact of the bills will also not be the same. The bills being welcomed in some states but not in others does not reflect ignorance on part of protesters but ignorance on the part of those who raise this question in understanding the difference of impact and failing to seek solutions that work for everyone.

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The narrative around Sikh representation being threatening or terrorist

Without much thought or knowledge, many oppose the flag and Sikh representation. What they fail to realise is that the ‘Raj Karega Khalsa’ is also commonly sung in the Indian National Army by Sikh regiments. The Nishan Sahib flag (the one that was falsely called the Khalistani flag on the Red Fort) was hoisted in Ladakh recently, without opposition. And before the Punjab elections, Modi himself wore the three weapon holy symbol. Do your apprehensions against Sikh symbolism still stand?

What about decades of congress rule that failed to solve farmers issues?

Two wrongs don’t make a right and no action is better than ill-action. In conclusion, we need new leaders altogether that can take care of the nation and the demands of its people for the people in a truly democratic sense with consultation, adequate research, and other factors that previous and the current government especially has failed to consider.

Suppression of Freedom of Speech

In the last one week, many journalists have been charged, and twitter has been asked to block certain accounts. On top of that, twitter employees were even threatened to be jailed in case they do not abide by every request that was sent to them to control what is shared about the Indian farmers protests. India has also set a record with the number of internet shutdowns amidst a crisis as they implement yet another one in the face of the farmers protests. The world’s largest democracy is breaking their democratic image in the fastest manner possible. These actions have made India a joke in the international community which has led to many outsider individuals and organisations condemning the government’s actions and supporting the farmers.

At this point, it is important that we set aside our differences on whether or not we agree about the efficiencies of the farm bills but ensure that we first maintain an environment that is safe, free, and fair for everyone in holding civilised discussions about those efficiencies.

This isn’t an international conspiracy as people seem to call it. The United Nations Human Rights Council has also issued a warning about this. Unfortunately, the right wing extremist supporters won’t acknowledge this but bring up more ‘if’s and ‘but’s and call this propaganda too. But they gladly took statements that indicated a positive to the bills. Double standards.

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Unpacking the Peace-Violence Protest Propaganda

My tweet thread above effectively explains this propaganda. Condemning violence is important but it should not be made the face of the entire movement. Media should not negate the entire basis of the protests and demands of the farmers just because of a few rogue elements. Many people who were initially silent about the protests have been compelled to vocalise against the farmers community because of the violence, which is completely unfair and only adds fuel to the fire, making way for the propaganda to work.

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I discussed with the team at The Written Revolutions about the #blacklivesmatter riots as well last year when they happened. After some thought, the same conclusions apply in this case as well. They are as follows:

  1. The true ethics of protesting involve peaceful methods,
  2. Media outlets and tyrant governments will always wait for an opportunity to invalidate the protest (by waiting for violence so they can constantly cite it against the group) so the protesters must be careful so as to not give them a reason,
  3. Yet, if violence does take place, it is also our ethical responsibility to not turn the entire narrative into the minority incidents,
  4. It is also our responsibility to try understanding why the violence took place WHILE ALSO condemning it. For a protest to turn violent, it shows a deep reflection of the nature of the governments’ response to their demands as well.

The Double Standards and Flawed Narrative of “Internal Matters”

After Rihanna, Mia, Greta and many other individuals and organisations started bringing to light in the international community about the Indian farmer’s protest, many Indian celebrities posted against this intervention. Two of them even had the exact same text, word-by-word, which is one among other reasons some believe that the Indian Bollywood and sports industry was “sold” to the government.

Immediately, the foreign actors were accused of being paid, supporting “Khalistan”, and within India many were accused of sparking an “international conspiracy.” In recent times, any time India has been criticised for human rights violations, media has always reported it as an “international conspiracy”, how convenient! In that case, BJP’s history should also be well known to us.

In the 1970-80s, BJP and many leaders who are against international opinions right now themselves resorted to getting support from international organisations, journalists, and journalism companies to assist in spreading the word about their cause in India.

Let’s leave that aside, it might open more doors to debate, so let’s consider a few more simpler examples that show us why shoo’ing away international actors from vocalising on this crisis is a flawed narrative.

  1. Narendra Modi expressed dissatisfaction on January 7, 2021, when the capitol riots broke out. He wanted American democracy to return to normal. Isn’t that democratic issue also an internal matter?
  2. The Nazi Regime should have left to do its own thing. Why did the international community have to do anything? Wasn’t that their internal matter stemming from their internal beliefs?
  3. Kashmiris want to decide for themselves instead of having India or Pakistan make all the decisions. Shouldn’t a plebiscite be held so they can, internally, decide what works best for them?
  4. China is scrutinised in the international community via letters in the chambers of the United Nations for their treatment of Uighurs and cultural suppression in places like Tibet. Shouldn’t that be left to them as it is an internal matter?

These are just a few examples among hundreds of others that show how bizarre this ‘internal matter’ narrative is. “Digital India” is only reflecting an “ancient India” when it forgets that in a globalising world where the concepts of shared-humanity exist can enable people to discuss issues regardless of their nationality. You don’t need to be Indian to be human.

“I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”
Socrates
[As quoted in Plutarch’s Of Banishment]’

Lastly, I find it really interesting that media outlets are taking pride over statements made by external actors supporting the bills (the media partly twisted those statements too) and not deeming that as “foreign interference.” The double standards have left its traces everywhere.

The Incomplete Reporting of IMF and USA’s opinions on the Bills

The Indian government and its supporters hail the bills as a guarantee of success in very manner possible. However, the statements that they use abroad do not present any such guarantee but only stated that it has the potential.

The media and others have also conveniently ignored the “but” condition that was attached to the appraisal of the potential the bills hold. If you’ve read the paper that I’ve linked in the first section of this post, you’d know that I never said “these solutions are horrible” but that “these solutions sound nice but will not work in this environment at this time”. Their statements also talked about inequalities and the need for a safety net for “those who will be adversely affected.” Given that the average tiny landholdings is that of 85% of Indian farmers, we know who the adversely affected are.

Additionally, taking opinions from the organisations that have been criticised heavily for damaging entire economies because of forced economic neoliberal policies is not ideal. It is only a red flag for a nation like India. Their titles may be big, but their track record with economic advise to other nations is not clean. A doctor that prescribes the same medicines to all their diverse patients is not a good one.

Problematic Internal Beliefs

In the last one week, a lot more has been revealed about the crisis. Those who seek to erode our democratic values have a lot of hidden problematic opinions. Their confirmation bias and ego won’t let them admit this, but google statistics can always expose it.

is rihanna muslim? google trends analytics

Kangana Ranaut’s tweets have always been problematic, but she once again reflected a problematic narrative when she compared a photo of her wearing clothes that covered her properly, and a photo of Rihanna exposing a lot of skin titling herself as a good role model. They try to save India’s name from international shame that outsiders tweets bring us, but she only gave the world yet another reason to look down on Indian democracy. What good society debates an issue by commenting on someone else’s appearance and clothing choice so openly?

When Truth and Falsehood Come Together, Falsehood is Bound To Perish. #IStandWithFarmers

If there are any myths or propagandist claims I forgot to debunk, be sure to talk about them in the comments below. If you have anything against what I’ve said, feel free to converse via the comments but if you’re going to name-call or assume that I’m pro-congress, this isn’t a place for that sort of redundant discourse.


Other References (those that weren’t hyperlinked on words throughout the post).

Click to Expand References.

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-55156219
  2. https://time.com/5918967/india-farmer-protests/
  3. https://www.timesnownews.com/india/blog/farmers-protest-live-updates-farmers-republic-day-tractor-rally-latest-news/518
  4. https://www.freepressjournal.in/india/farmers-welfare-not-at-the-heart-of-protesting-unions-agriculture-minister-narendra-tomar-after-11th-round-of-centre-farmers-talks
  5. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/farmers-protest-live-updates-ninth-round-of-govt-farmer-talks-sc-committee-farm-laws-7147228/
  6. https://english.jagran.com/india/farmers-protest-live-new-latest-updates-11th-round-of-talks-farm-laws-msp-narendra-singh-tomar-delhi-borders-tractor-rally-bharatiya-kisan-union-supreme-court-panel-10022547
  7. https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/govt-farmers-meet-9th-round-ends-with-date-for-10th-round-of-talks-121011600075_1.html
  8. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/here-s-why-farm-protests-have-been-loudest-in-punjab-haryana/story-G18qzwYWo7UuvrFmb06xuK.html
  9. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/11th-round-of-talks-between-farmers-govt-break-down-no-date-fixed-for-next-meeting-10-key-developments/articleshow/80410944.cms

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2 Comments

  1. Great Article..
    Could you also write an article on the exact problems of the farmers and which laws will affect in what way.. as I am totally confused seeing all different news reports..

    Like

    1. Hi, I’ve hyperlinked a couple different sources in the first section of this post to redirect you to sources that will inform you about the farmer’s bills in particular. If you want to read my work on that, you can check out a short version here – https://www.thewrittenrevolutions.com/article?articleid=64 – or a longer version here – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344772889_Discussing_the_Aggravating_Crisis_of_the_Indian_Agricultural_Sector_with_Emphasis_on_the_New_Indian_Agricultural_Bills_2020 (more details and more evidence ofcourse).

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