Once you’ve lived through a storm, you understand the pace of wind better- Farmers Protest in India

There were deafening shouts resounding from all directions. Confusion engulfed the atmosphere. Their eyes spoke louder than any word that stumbled out of their mouth. They had two daughters, one had barely entered her first teens and their only brother was in the prime of his early twenties. On that dark night, mum and dad called a family meeting. Dad spoke first, with a lump in his throat, “ Here are five knives. One for each one of us.” It felt like the air was suddenly sucked out of the room. Mum gave a reassuring nod so that Dad could continue, “You know what’s happening outside. So listen carefully. Your brother and I shall fight to the end. In case we are killed, you shall all run to the roof of the house. Make sure you don’t jump into the mob. If they follow you to the roof, then use the knife. Stab to kill.” Dad couldn’t make an eye contact, “ I am sorry, but that’ll be the only way to save your honour.” His’s tears were choking him by now. Mum held her daughters’ hands and reassured them, “ It’s better to die with dignity. It might all settle down soon. But just in case. We shall pray together. God is merciful. Alright?” Enough was said and certainly enough was heard. No one questioned, no one cried. Knives were picked without any preference. They all belonged to the same kitchen. I was one of the two sisters who slept three nights with the knife under my pillow and carried it along for four days, keeping my courage awake for the moment I might have to stab and kill myself. The prayers worked for my family but not for thousands who were beaten, raped and burnt alive! This is not a story, but truth of the darkest chapter in the history of free India, written in blood. Democracy was stripped naked and molested in the streets of the country. Sikh men and male children were burnt alive in front of their families, women and girls gang raped and then killed or left to live death. Such were the four days when the Republic burnt – from the 31st October to the 4th November in 1984. This was Sikh genocide at the hands of the mob, instigated by every political machinery in the country. Many Hindus and Muslims risked their own lives to save Sikh families, but there’s only so much they could rescue. This wasn’t Hindu vs Sikhs fight but RSS mindset ( a violent fascist organisation) vs Sikhs.    
                  Even then the polity of Law remained a cheering audience. Be it the Police force,  ruling Congress party or opposition Janata party ( renamed as BJP now), they all collaborated in this macabre of tyranny. RSS ( Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) ideology led this racist blood hunt, butchering thousands of innocent Sikhs. Even then Media remained an impotent mouthpiece of the regime. There was no social media at that time and it provided a perfect haven for the establishment to alter and invent history. Farmers were raising their issues even at that time. Since out of 1.5% of total land in the country 96% of Punjab is used for farming. Hence, Punjab’s concern was the loudest. This was becoming a problem for the Government. So a sinister plot was hatched. The then Congress leaders conceived the concept of Khalistan (separate state for Sikhs). To isolate Sikhs, political propaganda accused them of demanding a separate state of Khalistan instead of their rights as equal citizens. Farmers’ issues were shrouded in this conspiracy and the country was divided. Many books have been written on the subject since and I won’t attempt to possibly collect sea in a cup. However, I’ve merely provided a reference for better understanding of the subject matter of this post, i.e. how similar circumstances were invented on the 26th January 2021 to annihilate the farmers’ protest in India. The conspiracy of placing the barrel on a sikh shoulder to shoot unity.      
                  The ruling party could be different but the heat is sourced by the same fire- The RSS. RSS is the right wing Hindu think tank that is intolerant of all minorities in India. But it doesn’t represent an average Hindu in the country, just uses religion as an engine for its own gains. They are violent and an anarchical group in the country. It was an RSS agent who killed Mahatma Gandhi too. BJP, the current ruling party in India is an offshoot of this organisation. RSS has been selling the dream of a Hindu (only) Nation to many naive people who have been living in the hope of this dream coming true. The truth is that it’s not an idea that has any potential to manifest ever. India has always been a country of diversity and shall remain so, even though history shows how threads of this fabric have been picked from time to time. This dream has kept the country divided, to a considerable extent. India eliminated the British Rule but the politicians adapted the formula of ‘Divide and conquer’. The controlled mobocracy still exists, playing hide and seek with the citizens. Politicians remain the major benefactors of this game , while the minorities remain on the dart board. Fortunately, people are waking up now. About time.  
                  Generally, Hindu populace live in harmony with Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and other minorities. Hindus too have been victimised by using religion to create divisions of caste and creed amongst them. Where diversity is country’s strength, it can pose the greatest challenge as well to its integrity.
                  Over 60% of the total population of the country is made of farmers. Farmers or Kisans come from all castes and religions. In the current struggle, they are united against the three farming Laws which challenge not just their livelihood but threaten their very existence too. I’ve written about the laws in detail in a previous post. The united forum of the farmers and the ever swelling confluence of new joiners, is becoming a great problem for the divisive and dictatorial regime. The fear that the country is uniting prompted the establishment to hatch a plan to fragment this unification. They already had a target.

                  On the Republic day of India on 26th of January , a premeditated conspiracy against the Sikhs was manipulated. The protest sites of the farmers are on the three borders around Delhi where lathi charge, water -canons and tear gas drew the line of control for them. Farmers have camped in these three places since the 26th November last year. Barricades and heavy police deployment prevents the farmers to enter the capital. The farmers felt that it wasn’t fair that they missed out on celebrating the country’s Republic day. So the farmer leaders and Police agreed after much endeavour on a certain route for a peaceful tractor march. This route was changed a night before by the Police authorities. The alternative route too was accepted by the farmer leaders as there was no other choice. Admittedly, a few farmers, mainly the youth,  were not happy with the changed route. The   original plan enabled them to march on the Ring Road encircling Delhi, but the new route created three different routes for the three camps individually. This group of farmers became quite vocal under the instigative self- acclaimed leadership of a couple of young men. No one could tell at this stage as to how big a danger lurked behind the decision to alter the route at the eleventh hour. On the morning of 26th January, the enthusiastic youth was instigated by the Police to leave the camp more than two hours ahead of the official starting time of the march. They were deliberately guided by men in police uniform on the roads that led to Delhi via ring road. Some these farmers later explained that they felt ignored by the Government for over two months while they sat on the roads in cold and rain with their families. So they thought entering inside the capital might open the deaf ears and blind eyes of the Prime Minister and his cabinet. They were still vowed to remain peaceful. Their dire mistake was to think with heart. They seemed to have forgotten the consistent warnings by the experienced leaders about the potential infiltration of RSS agents and anti-farmer elements amongst them. As a result, their sentiments were exploited. Police barricaded the correct route and let a few tractors follow the wrong path. Not just on the ring road, but these farmers found themselves near the historic Red Fort, unintentionally. Most of these farmers were visiting Delhi for the first time and were not familiar with the map. A few people who certainly looked like farmers had already reached the spot, ahead of  the few misguided farmers from the border. Who were these people? Not just them but a couple of reporters from the corporate owned television channels too were there! These corporate channels have consistently shown the farmers’ movement in a very negative light, often distorting the truth and blatantly lying. Why were they there? Did they have a prior information? Certainly raises genuine questions, in the very least. Actual account by the farmers and their leaders can be watched on many social channels regarding this.
                  The jury is not even out yet on ‘who’ is to be blamed except conjectures are instigating judgments. Government and its machinery is too busy pointing fingers rather than investigating. My account is strictly based on my past experience, knowledge of Indian history, understanding Indian politics, reporting by social media, accounts of independent journalists reporting from ground zero, bystanders’ video coverage on YouTube channels , the interviews of the protesting farmers and eye witnesses amongst the public. No Government representative has refuted any of these claims, but is busy populating their own conspiracies. RSS and Corporate media are working together in full swings.
                 Red Fort is a 17th century historical building built by Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor. Since the country’s independence from the British Rule, on the 15th August 1947, the Prime Minister holds the ceremony of hoisting the National flag from Red Fort and address the nation. The site is tightly secured and patrolled by the police and also para military forces on any normal day. But on national days like, 26th January and 15th August, this security is intensified and enhanced many folds. Not this year, though. Why? It is a valid question which is being ignored by every politician in power currently. A big crowd of people and a few tractors were allowed to enter the premises. As if this isn’t enough, a group of people seemingly led by one particular man freely walked through the building with a crowd and encouraging a couple of individuals to hoist two flags on the empty pole which is built at a height inside the Red Fort. This man was captured on camera by independent and National media. One flag was saffron in colour with Sikh religious symbol ( Not the so called Khalistan flag as claimed by the corporate media) along with another flag bearing Farmers’ official emblem. The same man has also posted selfies and videos showing himself holding the flag later raised on the pole.
                 On social media the police is actually seen guiding the crowd through the path to the hoisting pole. They can be clearly seen on the camera onlooking the whole flag ceremony and rather enjoying it. Many police personnel were also seen sitting around in chairs in the lawns of the fort, while it was free for all in the building and around it. Where was the para military force? The scene is no less than a Bollywood movie set. Till this point it was an atmosphere of celebration and harmony. There was no incident of violence by the handful of people who deviated from their original route for one reason or the other. After the flag was raised, a group of farmers spotted the self- acclaimed leader and challenged him. He is then seen fleeing from the scene on a motorbike provided to him by a mysterious person appearing on the scene in a timely manner. Why some farmers followed this man and why another group of farmers were seen challenging him? You could see the two conflicting scenes on the video but can only deduce conclusions. Perhaps, some were those farmers who wanted to be heard and the others had realised that this man was key in leading them astray. The third category was the that of the ‘infiltrated’ agents. The so-called leader has been seen amongst the protesters at the Punjab-Delhi border. He was also posting daily YouTube videos criticising the Union leadership constantly. But the recognised leaders had been warning others about him and banned him from speaking from the same stage as them. They certainly knew what his intentions were. He promoted himself as the representative of the young farmers, since most leaders are elderly. This factor seem to have resonated with few young men and women. But majority has followed the agenda and instructions of the leadership.   
                  Going back to the Red Ford, the sky changed its colour suddenly after the exit of this man. The passive police came into action. One could watch through shaking cameras of the running reporters. There was lathi charge on the crowd (lathi is a special stick given to the Policemen as part of their uniform). Mayhem kicked up the dust! People were running amok, in some scenes police was beating people and yet in another Police is seen running away from the crowd attacking them…??? Peaceful farmers turning into attackers suddenly? Doesn’t add up but was good for the government propaganda. The reporters of the so-called National media was reporting in frenzy, lashing out all sorts of names for the farmers. A group of men and women too appeared on the scene outside the Red Fort shouting anti-sikh slogans, openly promoting violence against them. Sikh religious flags were burnt in front of a Sikh temple nearby. All this planning couldn’t be on the spur of the moment. Certainly not. There is overpowering stench of sinister premeditation.     
                  The show might have worked for those blind followers who had voted for BJP and those who rely on television anchors to help develop an opinion. Every attempt was made to create the 1984 circumstances – kill the Sikh farmers and then let the fire of hatred engulf the whole country. These circumstances would justify declaring Emergency by the government. So no protests. I’ve heard of killing two birds with a stone, but the government had its eyes on the branch with many birds. No one talked about the flag with farmers’ emblem or in fact the national flags carried by them. Many farmers were arrested on the same day but the man on the bike escaped. No one can even confirm that all the farmers inside the Red Fort were Sikhs. But because they were the predetermined targets, the Sikhs were labelled as Khalistanis, separatists and even terrorists- again. According to additional information via social media there are few pictures of the ‘flag ceremony man’ circulating where he is seen with no other than the PM himself and his Home Minister. It’s no secret that this man was also a campaign agent of a BJP candidate in the last elections. Despite that no political leader has commented upon their relation with this man. Suspicious? Oh, yes. He has been arrested today, after two weeks from Delhi! His arrest itself has opened the pandora’s box. Could the man in question be a mere pawn in the RSS game? Or he too was just another desperate farmer who tried to gain attention of the deaf and blind government? Or perhaps there is a deeper conspiracy? There are enough dots that we can connect. However, he has temporarily divided Punjab between a minority of those who believe in his innocence and majority of those who hold him guilty. There are always two conflicting opinions on any aspect of life. This is not unusual.
                  Thank God for the technology and social media. God bless all these reporters. People could see the truth and the intentions of the government couldn’t hide behind the PR curtain with thousand holes in it. As a result, Hindu populace didn’t react and instead showed even greater solidarity with the Sikhs. The plan back fired. Government expected to churn a storm but succeeded in only creating a few ripples.
                   But why such a song and dance about flying a flag on the pole inside Red Fort? The narrative is based on the fact that the Fort is part of heritage and symbol of national prestige, where only the country’s tricolour flag can be raised. Hence nation’s sentiments have been hurt, according to the rhetoric. However, the current PM has contracted out this symbol of prestige to a private company called the Dalmia Group. So, the question arises, is Red fort still a national heritage or is it a private property now? Also there is no ‘law’ against raising another flag from this spot in Red Fort, provided it’s not foreign. There is nothing preventing such an act in the Indian Constitution either. So far as ‘hurt’ is concerned, more than 150 farmers have died since the protest started but the PM has not uttered a word about these citizens. If there is no heart, then there can’t be any hurt.
                  Sikh flag is used to propagate that they want Khalistan under the guise of farmers’ rights. Hence it’s an act of terrorism and treason!! It’s the same religious flag that  can be seen on every Sikh temple, visited by millions of Hindu devotees too- people bow to it;  same sikh flag is hoisted by Sikh Regiment on the country’s borders- Government has allowed this; the PM recently tied the saffron scarf on his head with the sikh symbol while visiting a Gurdwara ( sikh temple); even during the Republic day parade this year the same sikh flag made part of the ceremonial display. When the Sikh Gurdwaras feed thousands of poor people daily, including during pandemic, this flag symbolises service to humanity; when the soldiers hoist this flag it is considered to be symbol of courage; but when hoisted in Red Fort it became symbol of terrorism? This is how forked tongue of RSS wags.
                 However after seeing that they had failed in their mission, government flogged the dying propaganda in a desperate effort to disrupt the protest yet again. Another attack was organised on the Punjabi farmers protesting at the Singhu border. RSS activists are always ready to serve their nefarious agenda. They dressed up as policemen with helmets and shields, except forgot to change their jeans and jumpers for uniform. Some pretended to be local residents from the surrounding areas but were later recognised from pictures being RSS activists. They claimed to be inconvenienced due to the protest site. So they shouted profanities to force the peaceful farmers out. Stones were hurled inside the temporary tents, injuring men and women indiscriminately by both, the pretend residents and the fake police. Fire bombs were dropped via helicopter over the camp. An independent reporter captured all the details in his cameras. Needless to say, he was beaten up by the police and taken away, along with many other innocent farmers. Thank the Almighty that he had uploaded the video before being arrested unlawfully. Farmers only had peace as their shield on the day and it stood them in good stead. Another possibility of rioting was avoided because the farmers didn’t retaliate. Almost every household in Punjab has son and daughter in the army. Sikhs are less than 2% of Indian population, yet make up for more than 20% of the Indian Army. So, Government is playing with fire. Sikhs are resilient and self-restrained by nature, but one should not try patience of even a saint, leave aside tolerance of a martial race. Their character shows through how the community bounced back after 1984. A consistent message by all the farmer leaders is to ‘stay peaceful for the success of the protest.’ These words have become an anthem for the protesters. But RSS has to remember that if anyone knows the real meaning of defending the oppressed against the oppressor, then look no further than the great history and track record of the Sikhs.     
                  Besides, if we talk about history then long before the Indian National flag was even designed, Sikhs had won the battle against the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam’s forces and hoisted the same Sikh flag in Red Fort on the 11th March 1783. Then it was considered to be symbol of victory over tyranny, of justice over injustice. Sikh army ( Called the Khalsa or the Pure) has conquered Delhi 18 times by defeating the Mughal Sultanate. But they didn’t occupy Delhi even once, because the battles were fought and won to emancipate people from oppression and never to control Delhi or its denizens. So flying a sikh flag in Red Fort is nothing new but RSS can’t get over their jealousy and hatred for all those who oppose their ideology.   
                    There also exist many videos on YouTube showing thousands of tractors that  followed the officially agreed route and marched peacefully on the 26th January. These farmers were welcomed by local people, many of whom spread petals on the tractor paths, many offered them refreshments, bore slogans of solidarity and clapped in support of them. But all these scenes were deliberately avoided by the corporate cameras.
                      However, the Government had underestimated to what extent an average Indian has woken up recently. Farmers’ protest has showcased it. RSS’s weapon of mass destruction has been hatred but it failed to divide people this time. Thousands of farmers are protesting , regardless of their religion, cast or creed. Thanks to these  men and women. Their unity not only saved the protest despite the 26th  January conspiracy but also refuelled the agitation with new life.
                    But one thing is clear, Red Fort incident was attempted as an attack on Sikhs with the hope that the fire of hatred would spread to other parts of the country and the protest would demise on its feet. I thank the Hindu and Muslim communities who stood in support of their Sikh brothers and sisters. I thank Nirankar, the Almighty God for failing the dangerous intentions of the cruel and dictatorial regime. The Protest is blessed with zest and courage of brave farmers from all over the country. The passion is rekindled due to sagacity of people in maintaining unity in diversity. What Indian governments couldn’t achieve in seventy two years of independence, farmers agitation has achieved in 78 days. Even though dark clouds still engulf the Delhi borders, there is certainly a glimpse of silver lining . Jai Jawan Jai Kisan ( Bravo Soldier Bravo Farmer).

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