The Bharat Bandh called by The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a forum comprising 40 farmer unions on Monday (September 28) garnered a mixed response. While traffic was affected in Delhi-NCR, markets remained open and business activities were largely unaffected in and around the national capital. Farmer unions held demonstrations in several states protesting against the three new farms laws introduced last year. The day-long shutdown was yet another attempt by farmer unions to create pressure on the Centre to take back the three agri laws, however, the government remains firm on its stand that these laws are for the benefit of farmers and won't be rolled back. The government has maintained that it is open for discussions and corrections in the laws.
In fact, the Government went to the extent of offering suspension of the three laws by 18 months. All the concessions that the Modi government was making, despite coming from a position of power, showcased the respect it holds for the 'annadatas'. PM Modi, on multiple occasions, has spoken on the need for farm reforms and the way they benefit the farmers.
To ensure protests are mutually resolved, Prime Minister Modi himself offered to suspend the farm laws for 18 months. This position was held even after the Republic Day violence showing the open-minded approach of the government. Prime Minister Modi also reiterated that the government was just a phone call away and is ready for further talks.
Despite the government's overtures, farmer unions have repeatedly opted for direct confrontation with law enforcement agencies showing little regard for the rules of the land. The Delhi Police fully cooperated with protesting Unions to make plans for them to peacefully conduct a tractor rally on Republic Day after repeated insistence on the same. It negotiated with these unions and arrived at mutual agreed upon dates and routes for the rally.
However, the trust was breached as soon as the rally began. More than the agreed number of tractors entered the capital and created total havoc. They resorted to vandalism as they ran amok on the highways, breaking the barricades that were put up by the Delhi police to control their route. Despite a number of provocations that included attacks on police personnel including female officers by protestors, the police displayed immense patience and restraint in dealing with them.
How long the protest will continue?
Does the big question still remain that for how long will this farmers protest last? For how long will the people living in Delhi-NCR have to face problems due to roads being closed/blocked because of the agitating farmers? Farmer unions must rethink their strategy and contemplate what are they trying to achieve by causing inconvenience to lakhs of people daily that is also adversely affecting several businesses?