UP, Haryana Stir
The nine-month long farmers’ agitation gets a shot in the arm in Karnal district of Haryana and Muzaffarnagar in western Uttar Pradesh. The massive show of strength challenging the two BJP-ruled States should have not just Chief Minister worried, but so also the BJP headquarters. While Harayana may not be top priority as it is not going for Assembly elections, the farmers ‘UP Mission’ had had a great start. The ‘mahapanchayat’ by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), attended by thousands has one agenda— campaign and defeat the Yogi Adityanath government. Leading the charge, Bhartiya Kisan Unionchief Rakesh Tikait roared: “People of UP will not tolerate (Home Minister) Amit Shah, (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath. If we have governments like this, there will be riots. This land witnessed the slogan of “Allahu Akbar, Har Har Mahadev” in the past. They talk of dividing, we speak of uniting.”
Political overtones? Will the farmers eventually align with Opposition parties, such as the SP or RLD or is Tikait going to court them for the 2022 polls? It was said that UP has 8 crore farmer votes and that they must steal the political mandate from the BJP. Having tasted success, strategy will be worked out next month in Lucknow for more mahapanchayats and reaching out to every single district. While victory is a long way, a rethink by the Centre on the farm laws could be a step to stop the juggernaut.
Likewise, in Karnal, the farmers have Chief Minister Khattar and team worried, as the show of strength in his constituency does not augur well for the government. The protesting farmers are continuing their indefinite sit-in at the district headquarters, demanding the suspension of the IAS officer, who ordered the security forces to lathicharge them and ‘smash their heads.’ Signs of unease in the ruling party are very much there. Mobile internet services there have been suspended, as round of talks between district officials and farmers failed on Wednesday last. Despite barricades, the farmers have managed to lay siege at the mini-secretariat. It’s a huge embarrassment for the state government, alright. Is it now on the backfoot? State Home Minister Vij has offered to order an impartial probe into the lathicharge but said “only genuine demands (of farmers protesting in Karnal) can be accepted.” Who decides, what is genuine, is the question.
Innocent Not Maoists
Damning, is to say the least. Eight innocent lives were killed, eight years ago in Chhattisgarh! A judicial inquiry report submitted to the Cabinet on Wednesday last should make the then governments in the State and the Centre hang their heads in shame. The report by a retired judge of Madhya Pradesh High Court into the gunning down of eight tribals, including four minors by security personnel in Edesmetta, Bijapur district, concluded that none of those killed had weapons nor were they Maoists, as was alleged at the time of the incident, night of May17-18, 2013. They were ‘unarmed and died in gunfire of 44 rounds, 18 of which were fired by a single constable of the CoBRA unit of the CRPF’! The report termed the incident as ‘a mistake’ saying the security personnel “may have opened fire in panic.” Ironic as it may sound, the report says 25-30 people had gathered that night to celebrate Beej Pandum, a tribal festival ‘to worship new life’ in the form of seeds, when a 1000-strong security force showed up, claiming it was a Maoist hideout. The incident, adds the report, could have been avoided had the security forces been ‘given enough gadgets for self-defence, if they had better intelligence from the ground and had they been careful’. The report has been adopted by the Cabinet. Not enough. North Block must read it and so should State governments. Every life matters.
Row Over ‘Namaz’ Room
Allotment of a ‘Namaz’ room in Jharkhand Assembly has stirred a hornets nest. The Opposition BJP led protests both inside and outside the Assembly, before the monsoon session came to an end on Thursday last. The BJP accuses the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha of ‘appeasement politics’ and demanded the “unconstitutional and undemocratic decision” be withdrawn immediately, as ‘secularism means the State shouldn’t profess and promote any particular faith.’ Interestingly, in the same breath, a BJP MLA demanded a ‘separate hall for reciting Hanuman Chalisa, in Bihar Legislature’, which too has a separate hall for offering Namaaz since 1993. While JD(U), BJP and Hindustani AwamMorcha (S) didn’t agree with the MLA’s demand, the HAM (S) asked “What happens if people start demanding construction of a mosque in every police station just because most of it has temples.” A notification “Allotment of room number TW 348 as Namaz Hall for offering Namaz in the new Assembly Building,” was issued last week on Speaker’s order. Following the developments, Speaker Mahto formed a7-member, all-Party committee to examine the issue and submit a report within 45 days. The BJP is unwilling to accept it and insists they will protest till the notification is withdrawn. Time will tell.
Tripura Political Violence
Political rivalry between ruling BJP and Opposition CPM in Tripura takes an ugly and violent turn, forcing the latter to seek Prime Minister Modi’s intervention. On Thursday last CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury shot off a letter to Modi complaining of ‘pre-planned” attack by ‘mobs of BJP men’ with connivance of State government a day earlier. The clashes between party workers left 10 persons injured, two CPM party offices gutted, few others vandalised and vehicles burnt. CPM’s state headquarters in Agartala was worst-hit among other district committee offices damaged or burnt down and ‘houses of many party leaders and activists were attacked, ransacked or set on fire.’ Even newspaper offices were not spared. ‘Daily Desharkatha’, CPM mouthpiece and Pratibadi Kalam were vandalised. Importantly, police confirmed most of the reports of arson, but the big question is where will it end. Using state power to supress dissent is all too well-known. The police, present at many of the sites was a silent bystander and some CRPF jawans, present in front of state committee office were withdrawn an hour before the attack began. Denying charges, BJP accuses the CPM cadre of fuelling trouble and instigating violence for the past few days. Sadly, in this blame game it is democracy which suffers. But does anyone care?
In National Interest?
Watch your words, is a stern warning issued to faculty and members of staff of the Central University of Kerala. In a circular, the Registrar has asked them to abstain from giving any type of “provoking statements or lectures that are anti-national and against the interest of the nation”. However, ‘anti-national’ hasn’t been spelt out. The timing though gives ample hint, as it seems to be an upshot of the suspension of an Assistant Professor in Dept of International Relations and Politics who had allegedly described the Sangh Parivar and Modi government proto-fascist while teaching MA students on “fascism and Nazism’ way back in April. He also is said to have slammed the Centre’s decision to export Covid-19 vaccines, saying it was ‘unpatriotic.’ The Executive Council had termed his statements as ‘anti-national’. Sadly, the term is oft-heard and being blatantly misused, with a clear intent to suppress dissent and criticism in these past few years, specially by BJP-ruled governments. Be it human rights activists, civil society organisations, journalists etc, the head count is ever-increasing. The circular, predictably has ruffled feathers among the academic community. Will it trigger protests, such as the one at Visva Bharati University, against what students call ‘saffronising’ of the campus by the VC? Time will tell.— INFA