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By Vijaylakshmi Nadar, Edited by Adam Rizvi, New York, TIO: India’s rapid, regressive descent into becoming a deep police state, wherein a repressive government is exercising unbridled power; using the police as contract killers and executioners at will, to silence any opposition against it, is becoming much too apparent. How else could the dastardly act of mowing down peacefully protesting farmers, under the wheels of a speeding monstrous vehicle, driven by no less than Ashish Misra, the son of a Union Minister of State for Home Affairs (MoS), Ajay Misra be explained?
The large posse of policemen witness to this heinous crime, instead of arresting the culprits on the spot, jumped to the rescue of the minister’s son and his relative, ushering them through the sugarcane fields, turning back to shoot at the farmer’s, to ensure they were not followed.
The wilful “accident” has caused 10 deaths, another 15 of them grievously injured. Those killed in cold blood include six farmers, and a local, independent journalist, Raman Kashyap.
This descent into a deep police state, especially in key states like Uttar Pradesh, started at a steady pace since May 2014, when right-wing Hindutva idol Narendra Modi took center stage as the prime minister. The descent took a sharp turn into hell, when a supposedly Hindu monk, known for his acerbic speeches against Muslims, was given the chief minister’s post in Uttar Pradesh (UP), on a platter. The monk who swore to herald a religious revolution, to help elevate Hindus to hitherto unseen levels of progress, instead turned UP into a badland, with a free hand to the police to shoot down any opposition to his government.
It was this shoot down policy that seems to have inspired the recently elevated MoS, who boasted in a public meeting less than a week ago, that before he was an elected representative and a minister, he was “something else” and if he is challenged (by the farmer’s) then he is willing to take up the challenge. “I would ensure that farmers not only leave Tikunia (the village in Lakhimpur where the killings happened) but leave Lakhimpur Kheri (UP’s largest district) permanently”. Whether he was serious about his threat or not, his son Ajay Misra certainly was.
The farmers were only exercising their democratic right to protest with black fags, on the day of the tragic killings. They had earlier in the day stopped the deputy chief minister of UP, Keshav Prasad Maurya, from landing in his helicopter, at a makeshift airstrip close to where the farmers were protesting. The fact that they were forced to travel by road instead, was not taken well by Maurya or Misra. While their motorcade of luxury vehicles passed the farmers, Misra was seen waving at the farmers, in what seemed like an attempt to tease them.
After the motorcade passed, some of the farmers were heading back to their protest site and despite a large police presence, the farmers were mercilessly flattened on the ground. According to the shocked eyewitnesses, a Fortuner first came hurtling over them, followed by the Mahindra Thar driven by Ashish Misra, further crushing the injured bodies.
Eyewitnesses speaking to yet another independent journalist Mandeep Punia also stated that, as crowds became aware of what happened, the police jumped in to cover Ajay Misra and his companion driving the Fortuner and led them to safety.
The farmers have stated that they have photographs and videos of the entire sequence of events that they will share with the police.
Meanwhile the doting father Ajay Misra outrightly denied that his son was at the crime spot, by stating that his son was at the wrestling event in their village. And to establish this alibi, he said there were about 2000 locals at the event and that there are several photos and videos of it. which he will hand over to the police. It is surprising however that despite the massive outrage against his son, not only by protesting farmers but on social media as well, not a single picture of Ashish Misra at the wrestling event was leaked by the duo or their supporters to take the pressure off them.
Also Read: Farmer Distress and Modi Govt.
The father-son duo seems to have been taken by surprise instead, at the outrage against them. They probably thought that since they were in their hometown, with full support and protection of the police and the local administration, a handful of farmers on the crime scene could probably cause them no harm.
The worst part is that they may just be right. Not only did the police, who were eyewitnesses to the manslaughter, not arrest the culprits, but escorted them to safety. They let three BJP supporters take the fall, who too were killed on the spot, along with journalist Raman Kashyap.
The families of Raman Kashyap, who was just in his early 30’s and leaves behind two girls under the age of 10, besides his wife and parents, refused to cremate him till the farmer’s demands were met. The farmers refused to cremate the other deceased as well, till their demands were met too.
The police claimed to have filed an FIR early morning of October 4, almost 15 hours after the killings happened, as protests threatened to get out of control.
The farmers not only want a case of homicide to be registered against Ashish Misra but also want Ajay Misra to resign, to curb possibilities of him influencing the investigation, in his son’s favor. Other demands include that each of the family members is given a compensation of Two crores, besides providing a government job to one family member.
Ever since the protests started last year, the government has been using all kinds of coercive tactics to get the millions of protesting farmers off their backs.
Though the farmers’ protests are hurting their poll promises, they assume that someday soon it will simply disappear under pressure, if their demands are ignored, despite the international support. The farmers however not only agitated through the coldest winter months last year and the beginning of this year, they also sat through blistering summer heat and rains, despite losing 700 farmers and despite the government refusing to budge.
Yesterday’s heartless killings have however triggered fresh outrage and support for the farmers, who are too far into the protests to lay their swords in surrender now.
Every attempt has been made by the media too, right from the beginning to show the peaceful protestors as the “dark, violent entity” set upon the Indian government to create misconceptions and bring international shame to the otherwise spotlessly clean, super-efficient government!
This government is not interested in talking and solving the issue. It wants to use force to break agitations instead. The judiciary too is yet to take any decisions to help break the deadlock. A video of Haryana chief minister Manoharlal Khattar has surfaced, where he is heard instructing BJP party workers that all across Haryana units of 800-1000 new farmers should be created. They will have full powers to handle the opposition in any which way they want and that they should not worry about consequences. Amidst applause and laughs he further states even if they are behind bars for five years, they would only emerge as much bigger leaders than they are today
Even when the farmers had decided to take a tractor march in Delhi, as a parallel march of farmers, along with their soldier sons near the Red Fort, on Republic Day, one of the farmers, Navreet Singh was shot, despite a large police presence.
Though the Delhi police spun a tale that the jeep that Navreet was driving lost control, killing him, post mortem report proved that he suffered gunshot wounds on his face, which made him lose control over his jeep. In pictures circulated by the farmers, the entry and exit points of the bullet were clearly visible on his face. Though the police and the central government had promised to investigate the matter, nothing has come of it. Navreet could have been shot by the police or by a government sympathizer just to undermine the protestors. And for a few days, they did succeed, after the Modi media carried on a nonstop campaign to label the farmers as guilty.
Even yesterday the focus was on labeling the farmers as anarchists, in an effort to trigger the farmers to violence again. The farmers however recognize this as a government ploy and continue to be peaceful. Though the two vehicles which just crushed the farmers under its wheels were burnt, the possibilities of farmers reacting in anger are remote. The farmers may have even torched the vehicles, but given the circumstances, the chances of police doing so are even higher! The old ploy was to trigger violence and then blame the opposition.
Just last week, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) leading the farmer’s protests had reiterated that the movement is a testimony to the will and determination of lakhs of farmers across the country that would only grow stronger, with their peaceful satyagraha.
The three laws, that the farmers are protesting are, The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020, all of which were forcibly passed in Parliament, last September without any discussions, as is the practice of this government to pass any contentious bill, which might be held up in protests.
The Narendra Modi government after “demonetizing” currency which had led to crippling of the economy in November 2018, has since launched into an intense “monetizing” of the country’s assets, which includes handing over several public sector units, to his corporate friends.
This government thought that once they had passed the farm bills in parliament, there would be no opposition to it. And even if there was, they would easily quell it with force. However, the peaceful protests which started in Punjab, soon moved base to the Delhi borders, in November last year. No amount of police presence or use of force including pushing back the farmers with water cannons, tear gassing them, hitting them with sticks, foisting them with false cases, and throwing them behind bars, only made the farmers dig in their heels harder. ,
It was not enough for Narendra Modi to give away to good friend Gautam Adani, the airports, railways, trains, mines, but also agricultural land. The one thing that the Covid crisis showed us was that food grains and agriculture would always be plentiful and profitable, regardless of the state of the economy.
So sure was the government giving the farmers a slip that months before the bills were even passed, Adani had already started constructing massive, temperature-controlled granaries, to stock the grains, which would help hike up prices, after a temporary shortage is created.
About 54.6 percent of the total workforce in the country is engaged in agricultural and allied sector activities according to Census 2011. The sector accounts for 16.5 percent of the country’s Gross Value Added for the year 2019-20 (at current prices), all of which when controlled by one conglomerate would be dangerous for the very existence of man, especially the poor.
Curated and Compiled By Humra Kidwai
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