It’s now an open secret that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will not repeal the anti-farmer laws enacted to promote corporate interests in agriculture. After several rounds of talks between Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and the agitating farmers, who are laying siege to New Delhi, India’s capital, there has been no conclusion. Finally, the Supreme Court jumped into the fray, stayed the contentious farm laws, and formed an “expert” committee to discuss the issue, which the farmers opposed. Why the protesting farmers aren’t supporting the Supreme Court’s stay on the farm laws?
Firstly, the farmers’ movement has been progressing on two major demands: repealing of the two new anti-farmer laws—the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act—along with the repealing of the Essential Commodities Amendment Act, and the demand for a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) for crops. It seeks no halt on the laws or change in terms and conditions, rather total repealing. Providing any other solution won’t fit the bill. That’s why the Supreme Court’s stay on the farm laws is seen with scepticism by the farmers.
Secondly, the farmers didn’t want a committee of so-called “experts”, who are infamous for tom-tomming the benefits of market-oriented neoliberal agricultural policies, to discuss their demands with the government. It’s the farmers’ opposition to their involvement in the discussion with the government that one member resigned from the committee before its first meeting.
The farmers have comprehended the “farm laws” well and they seek no further interpretation on the “benefits”, as they consider such interpretations as baits to lure them into a nefarious corporate trap. The Supreme Court’s stay on the farm laws is, therefore, seen as an attempt by the government to buy time to deviate the movement from its principal demands. How can the farmers accept the involvement of BJP pawns to discuss the very laws, which they want to be repealed?
Rather than discussing the timeline within which the laws will be repealed, the BJP government has been dangling the bait of “amendments” to lure the farmers. However, by remaining consistent on their demands the farmers have shown no signs of deviating from their movement. The BJP has deployed a host of cons and deep state agents to disrupt and dilute the movement.
Not just these “expert committee” members, but also the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is used to intimidate farmer leaders after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been used to deploy the traders supporting and funding the movement in Haryana and Punjab. The NIA, which acts as an extended arm of the BJP’s parental body Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is sending notices to random activists and fundraisers, accusing them of being “Khalistani” separatist sympathisers.
When, despite the ED and the NIA threats, the farmers and the people are resiliently opposing Modi’s farm laws, the government sought the involvement of the court to invalidate the demands legally and to push the farmers into a state of limbo. The Supreme Court’s involvement is a face-saver for the Modi regime because if it endorses the laws, then the government will gain a moral high ground in its pro-corporate fascist measures as it did through the controversial Ayodhya Babri Masjid dispute verdict in November 2019.
According to Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Krantikari Punjab state president Surjeet Singh Phul, a few organisers of a BKU splinter organisation moved a writ petition against the Modi regime’s anti-farmer laws. Due to them taking the legal route rather than the route of mass movement, the farmers boycotted the organisation and its meetings, rallies, etc. This forced them to withdraw the writ petitions. “It’s to save the government that the cases are filed in the court”, Phul claimed. He said, “the government will say let the court decide on this as you’ve moved to the court, so accept whatever verdict the court gives, the government will also accept the verdict”. Ex parte hearings are going on in the Supreme Court without the consent of most farmers.
The Supreme Court’s past verdicts, from the dismissal of the Rafale Jet scam inquiry petition, Ayodhya dispute verdict, to the recent dismissal of the petition against the Central Vista project—Modi’s unapologetic extravagance during the peak of an unprecedented economic crisis—exhibit that any verdict on the farm laws will support the government’s standpoint. The farmers have been, therefore, obstinate about not engaging with the apex court and the legal petition route. Thus, the Supreme Court’s stay on the farm laws isn’t appealing to them, as they know, and the composition of committee members show, that this will be temporary hogwash as high stakes of big comprador capitalists and foreign corporations in Indian agriculture sector will make it inevitable for the apex court and all institutions of the state to support the neo-liberal economic formula.
It’s still a great achievement in terms of people’s movement that the illusion of legal battle is over. While earlier, organisers and participants of movements will pin their hopes on the apex court’s verdict, the farmers have clearly understood that there will be no relief for them at the Supreme Court, but they can only secure their futures by forcing the Modi regime to repeal the contentious laws in the Parliament. Fearing further ignominy, especially to evade the Opposition’s questions, the Modi regime didn’t allow the Parliament’s winter session to take place.
If the BJP can alter the functioning of the Parliament as per the prime minister’s whims, the façade of the sham “democracy” isn’t going to survive for long. The farmers’ movement is acting as a catalyst force that’s uniting the workers and peasants against the sclerotic regime and its fascism. The Supreme Court’s stay on the farm laws failed to force farmers to retreat, rather it strengthened their resolution to fight and secure the future of their next generations from the lust and greed of big corporates and their lackeys like the BJP.