Azadi ki or Chalo: The future of India’s farmers’ protest

Farmers protest against the three farm laws saw massive participation of India's farmers. | Picture: Wikimedia Commons

One battle appears won but the war for India’s soul rages on.

Pieter Friedrich |

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When the Kisan Morcha — the Farmers Protest — was launched a year ago, who could have predicted that it would serve as not only the most persistent and effective thorn in the side of the Modi regime but that it would also be the first mass movement in India to compel the rising Hitler in the East to take his first step back? 

It was a victory earned by the sacrifice of the blood of many hundreds of farmers who gave up their lives for the cause. A cause that called them to rise against so-called “reforms” of the Indian agricultural system which were rammed through by a regime that sought to shove acceptance of these new laws down the throats of farmers whose response was to choke and vomit them up as if being force-fed poison. That the Farmers Protest stayed the course for a year — despite the suffering, the deaths, the hatred poured out upon them by the regime, the open calls for vigilante violence against them issued by Cabinet Ministers, and the implementation of those murderous calls just last month — is a testament not only to the resilience of the Indian farmer but also and especially to the Sikhs who served as a backbone of the protest.

Throughout the Kisan Morcha, the spirit of Chardi Kala prevailed. Chardi Kala — the Sikh concept of eternal optimism — fueled a defiant refusal to despair, give up, or submit. Now, finally, when the fight seemed endless, the regime has yielded and promised to withdraw these laws which the farmers found to be so odious.

And yet the Farmers Protest is just one episode — albeit one of the most significant ones — in the long, drawn-out, and still unfolding drama that is the war for liberty and peace in India. The villains of the story still hold the reins of power. It appears that a great battle is about to be won, but the war still rages on.

The promised repeal of the despised agricultural “reforms,” although it may have been made with political calculation in anticipation of upcoming elections where farmers hold great influence, nevertheless indicates a chink in the regime’s armour. And yet the rising Fourth Reich has only flinched and flashed a momentary weakness in the hope that it can buy itself a little time to pivot before renewing its charge towards tyranny in the epic war that yet rages over the soul of India.

So, where will the tractors of the farmers go from here?

Just as the spirit of Chardi Kala gave wings to the Farmers Protest, so must the Sikh belief in Sarbat da Bhala — the welfare of all — undergird the future. The farmers may have received a reprieve, but the Modi regime’s relentless march towards fascism continues in every other segment of society.

Once the farm laws are repealed as promised, will the farmers then turn their tractors around, or will they strengthen their souls and steel their resolve and continue to plough ahead? As mobs rampage through the streets calling for the genocide of Muslims and act upon it by lynching them, as Christians are beaten and dragged from their church services while demagogues demand their beheading, as any academic or intellectual or activist who dares to offer a shred of criticism of or opposition to the regime is sent to rot behind bars, will the tractors rally around them? Now that the farmers have victory in sight, will they continue to press forward with the call of Guru Gobind Singh Ji to recognize the whole human race as one and thus stand in solidarity with all those others who are still being crushed beneath the boots of the RSS-BJP regime?

No Indian will ever be safe, secure, and at peace until the tree of fascism which is now flowering in India is ripped up by the roots, tossed into the flames, burned, and the ashes scattered to fertilize the soil of a truly free nation.

The soil is being tilled. The seed is being planted. The harvest may come, but the harvesters must stand ready to gather it.

Azadi ki or Chalo.

Let’s march towards freedom.

Pieter Friedrich is a freelance journalist specializing in analysis of South Asian affairs. He is author of “Saffron Fascists: India’s Hindu Nationalist Rulers” and co-author of “Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.”