Farmers are no less courageous than the soldiers, both are standing determined in the freezing December cold. While the soldiers are deployed at the borders, the farmers, on the other hand, have left their homes to raise their voice against the new farmer’s bill (2020) initiated by the BJP led central government.
Union minister of agriculture Narendra Tomar tabled farmers bill in the Rajya Sabha. The bill was already cleared by the Lok Sabha. In Rajya Sabha, the bill was passed without actual voting, only voice vote is used to finally pass the bill. Following this several leaders of the opposition party went on protest against this behavior of Rajya Sabha and the chairperson. After all, this was just the beginning, which paved the way for the ongoing farmers protest across the country. The farmers are protesting against two farm bills that Rajya Sabha recently passed-
- The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (promotion and facilitation) Bill 2020.
- The Farmers (empowerment and protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill 2020.
According to the government, the bill will create ‘one nation, one market’, in which the farmers will be given freedom of choice to sell their produce wherever they wish to. These ordinances state that the areas outside the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) will have no taxes on sale and purchase. The farmers allege that if the government make sale and purchase outside the market more attractive, due to the absence of taxes, then this would pose huge disadvantage for the farmers because everything in the APMC mandi is regulated, transactions are taken into account, and most important there is a MSP (Minimum Support Price) which is assured to the farmers, but outside the APMC mandi MSP doesn’t exists. There is no one to regulate anything and to ensure that the farmers are treated fairly and are not exploited.
The protesting farmers believe that these ordinances would “corporatize” the agriculture sector of India, where big companies would be able to establish their monopolies over the agriculture sector and would become even easier to exploit the farmers. “Kissan Bachao, Mandi Bachao” is the slogan of the farmer’s protests. In actuality the entire issue is about, ‘free market vs regulated market’, which will increase for the push in farmer’s suicide, exploiting them and entirely focusing on profit making. The farmers have the following four demands from the government-
- Roll back of the ordinances.
- APMC mandi market to remain in place.
- Government to clear the loans of the farmers.
- A law should be made for MSP to be at least 50% more than the weighted average cost per production.
More than 400 farmer organizations across the country have come together to protest against the farm bills by the government.
Whenever there is a protest staged against the government, it responds to the protest and the protestors in multiple ways. To silence the farmers, the government has set up barricades, used water cannons and tear gas on farmers, dug up the highway, section 144 was imposed, buses were suspended so that the protestors cannot reach Delhi, also, in some areas the farmers were not allowed to gather for protests. In addition to this, media’s behavior towards the protestors raises questions about Indian democracy and freedom of expression. Instead of questioning the government, media is defaming the protestors by calling them khalistani, urban naxals, terrorists, and congress funded. Some news channels went way ahead on defaming the farmers, zee news, for example, was running a hashtag, #FarmersProtestHijacked and #AndolanMainKhalistan. Times now was also running a hashtag, “#KissanKanoonClash”, and further making the claim that the opposition is “inciting the farmers” and blamed the farmers for being responsible for another mass gathering that could lead to increase in Covid-19. The media is not concerned about the spread of Covid-19 when the BJP leaders assemble in Hyderabad for municipal elections. CNN News flashed the headline, “Dilli Chalo is a war cry” and asked “who is misleading the farmers?”. In News18 India, Anvish Devgan’s prime time show carried taglines such as, “has the congress incited the farmers?”. The television media is full of defamation like the above mentioned statements, on the other hand social media is also used to spread the propaganda for defaming farmers by circulating fake news.
Due to the triggering misrepresentation by the Indian media, the farmers decided to go for an alternative approach, that is, Trolley Times. Trolley times is a newspaper exclusively for the protestors by the protestors. The newspaper is bi-lingual and it aims to touch every single corner of the kilometers long agitation at Delhi’s borders and ensure that the message from the stage, latest developments in talks with the government and other such reports are easily accessible to the agitating farmers. The first edition of trolley times has three long form articles and features in Gurmukhi and photos, illustrations and a Hindi section from states other than Punjab. The newspaper is a brain child of Surmeet Maavi, who is from a journalist background.
“Judaange, Ladaange, Jeetange! (united we will fight and win)” is the highlight of trolley times front page in Gurmukhi. The primary aim behind starting a newspaper was – to enable every farmer across different protest sites to know the developments at the protest stages and with the government, and to show the critics of the movement the intellectual abilities of the protesting farmers for they have often been branded gullible, uneducated and naïve. The first edition of trolley times was printed in Gurgaon at a cost of around Rs. 12,000. Nearly 2,000 copies were printed, with1,200 meant for the singhu border and 800 for tikri.
The Godi media is continuously referring the protesting farmers as terrorists and Naxalites. The defamation and misrepresentation of the farmers at the hands of the media led them to bring up their own newspaper. Is the Indian media that mistrusted? This gave rise to another question, why Indian media lost its trust in common people? Where is the freedom of press and free speech? Following these, there would be many questions that will pop up in our mind if one looks at the image of the media today. The two essential values ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ are vulnerable, they are on the verge of extinction. We are glorifying soldiers, movies have been made to confer them tribute and respect, which they duly deserve, but we forget that the farmers are as much important and valuable for the nation as the soldiers are. Lal Bahadur Shastri has reminded us the importance of both, “Jai Jawan, Jai Kissan”, now it’s the time we should reflect to the latter and listen to their voice.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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