The British Raj responded as it did in Champaran 104 years ago. Swaraj must do likewise and enter its 75th year with the glow of the health and happiness of farmers on its forehead. This is its “indigo moment”. (Sameer Sehgal/HTPhoto)
The British Raj responded as it did in Champaran 104 years ago. Swaraj must do likewise and enter its 75th year with the glow of the health and happiness of farmers on its forehead. This is its “indigo moment”. (Sameer Sehgal/HTPhoto)

Champaran to Singhu: A tale of two satyagrahas

To assuage the protesting farmers, the Centre must suspend the Acts indefinitely, refer demands to the Inter-State Council; and call a Parliament session
PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 07:47 PM IST

Satyagraha has won. And the Supreme Court (SC) has acquired a trust dividend. Never before in the history of India has a protest involving so many lasted so long without flinching, without slackening, without diluting the three crucial ingredients of that mode of struggle. First, it must be about a principle or a programme, not against any individual. Second, it must include self-suffering. And third, it must be non-violent.

In staying the three farm laws, the apex court has acknowledged the satygaraha’s moral voltage without saying as much. And it has given to the protesters a moment of satyagrahic epiphany. But, as we all know by now, the protesters have thanked SC; they have not declared their battle over.

For it is not over.

Satyagraha has won its battle on Delhi’s outskirts; it has not yet triumphed. It would have, if SC had struck the three laws down. It would have, if the government, responding to the stay, had said it was repealing the laws. It would have if the government had said it was going to discuss the demands in a specially convened meeting of the Inter-State Council with all chief ministers, and then, of Parliament — to enact a new legislation that fulfils the aspirations of farmers and acts on the neglected recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee.

The court forming committees to go into the matter has not reassured the protesters. As they are constituted, it could not have. Besides, other committees set up by earlier SC orders have tended to uphold the government’s position on the issues in question.

A great example of a successful committee needs to be recalled. After the brave and principled satyagraha launched by Mahatma Gandhi in Champaran, Bihar, in 1917, against the tinkathiya system, operating on indigo plantations in that district, the British government set up a Champaran agrarian committee. It worked diligently, finding the satyagraha’s objectives justified. And it recommended the scrapping of the system. With all the demands of the peasant protesters met, the satyagraha ended in success. And it gave ground-level experience of struggle and success to a future President of India — Rajendra Prasad.

How does that committee differ from the ones just constituted? Gandhi was a member of the committee. There are farm union representatives on the three committees, sure. But are they representative of the aspirations of the protesters? We know they are not.

So, what now?

The protesters have said they will not move an inch. This is dangerous. The massing of thousands of un-budging protesters around the national capital at the time of a pandemic poses a dire health hazard. The protesters have so far been impervious to the clear threat of the virus. Unmindful of the risk, they have converged and stayed put in the thousands, in close proximity, right where the virus has been virulent. They seem now to be no less unmindful of the risk. Can the government be equally unmindful of the risk to the protesters and to others in contact with them?

And beyond the virus risk, can the government afford to alienate the farming community ad infinitum, without unimaginably serious consequences to the nation’s economy and its social integrity? And without the stalemate resulting in a flare-up?

Responding to the court’s orders and its chastisement, the government needs to do what it may otherwise not have done. It can do the following: One, announce a revocation or at the very least, an indefinite suspension of the Acts. Two, remit them and all the demands of the farmers to the Inter-State Council for a discussion. And three, call an exclusive session of Parliament to discuss a new law with farmers — not “experts” but farmers who have been hurt — being given an opportunity to be heard by parliamentarians on the margins of the session.

And with these three steps being announced, the leaders of the protesters must rise to the occasion too and announce their dispersal from the sites of protest and adopt a constructive response to the promised discussions.

The SC has shown its independence and a sensitivity to the public weal by doing as it has. Let there be no mistake here. It could well have said that this is a matter for the executive to handle. It has not. It has been bold. The protesting farmers have, without invoking Gandhi, followed the basics of his satyagrahic procedures, though differing from these in some details. They will be showing another kind of courage in accepting the offer of such a discussion, if made thus by the government. But the toughest gesture has to come from the government. It has to match the court’s wisdom and announce the steps detailed here.

The British Raj responded as it did in Champaran 104 years ago. Swaraj must do likewise and enter its 75th year with the glow of the health and happiness of farmers on its forehead. This is its “indigo moment”.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
The incoming Joe Biden administration will avoid many of the personality-related pitfalls of its predecessor, and the presence of a core group of advisers in key security agencies suggests that coordination may be better than the first Obama term (REUTERS)
The incoming Joe Biden administration will avoid many of the personality-related pitfalls of its predecessor, and the presence of a core group of advisers in key security agencies suggests that coordination may be better than the first Obama term (REUTERS)

All the President’s men and women

By Dhruva Jaishankar
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 07:02 PM IST
The incoming US national security and foreign policy team looks, on paper, to be one of the most experienced in history. How it translates into outcomes is to be seen
Close
While such incidents have raised issues of institutional discrimination, there are constant attempts, as was also done in Vemula’s case, to evade institutional accountability by attributing these instances as being incident-specific. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
While such incidents have raised issues of institutional discrimination, there are constant attempts, as was also done in Vemula’s case, to evade institutional accountability by attributing these instances as being incident-specific. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

The modern form of institutionalised casteism

By Anurag Bhaskar
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:44 PM IST
India needs to move beyond tokenism of having one Dalit chief justice or two Dalit presidents, and ensure adequate representation to its Dalit and Adivasi citizens in all fields
Close
Pro-Trump protesters storm the Capitol Building, January 6. (REUTERS)
Pro-Trump protesters storm the Capitol Building, January 6. (REUTERS)

The psychology of Trump’s supporters

By Yashwant Raj
PUBLISHED ON JAN 15, 2021 06:35 PM IST
As President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the United States (US) Capitol on January 6, I wondered if a man I had interviewed at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania was among them.
Close
There are many common problems in smallholder agriculture, such as low productivity, investments and market access, which keep farm incomes low across India (PTI)
There are many common problems in smallholder agriculture, such as low productivity, investments and market access, which keep farm incomes low across India (PTI)

Farm laws: What India can learn from Kenya’s agri experiment

By Swati Dhingra
UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 08:38 AM IST
Recent research at the London School of Economics examines a decade of high-quality farmer-buyer data from Kenya during a period when it introduced radical farm laws to encourage agri-businesses to determine impacts on small farmers
Close
At the heart of the conflict is an acute trust deficit, a deepening mistrust of the nexus between untrammelled State power and big business (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)
At the heart of the conflict is an acute trust deficit, a deepening mistrust of the nexus between untrammelled State power and big business (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)

The anti-corporate texture of farm protests

UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2021 08:38 AM IST
It is symbolic of a wider discontent against emerging market monopolies and fears of this being replicated in the agricultural sector
Close
Countries concerned about China’s dominance are likely to prioritise strategic implications of investments over India’s economic inefficiencies (AP)
Countries concerned about China’s dominance are likely to prioritise strategic implications of investments over India’s economic inefficiencies (AP)

Weaning away foreign investment from China

By Manoj Kewalramani
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 07:29 PM IST
Capitalising on emergent geopolitical trends entails working with like-minded partners focusing on sectors with national security implications
Close
Despite all efforts, the gross domestic expenditure on R&D as a fraction of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined from 0.8% in 2010 to 0.6% in 2018. It has been hovering around this level for more than two decades. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Despite all efforts, the gross domestic expenditure on R&D as a fraction of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined from 0.8% in 2010 to 0.6% in 2018. It has been hovering around this level for more than two decades. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

To truly become self-reliant, invest in research and development

By Rahul Mazumdar
PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 08:30 PM IST
India has always been found lacking in terms of academia-industry linkages. This is a bedrock in developed economies.
Close
The British Raj responded as it did in Champaran 104 years ago. Swaraj must do likewise and enter its 75th year with the glow of the health and happiness of farmers on its forehead. This is its “indigo moment”. (Sameer Sehgal/HTPhoto)
The British Raj responded as it did in Champaran 104 years ago. Swaraj must do likewise and enter its 75th year with the glow of the health and happiness of farmers on its forehead. This is its “indigo moment”. (Sameer Sehgal/HTPhoto)

Champaran to Singhu: A tale of two satyagrahas

PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 07:47 PM IST
To assuage the protesting farmers, the Centre must suspend the Acts indefinitely, refer demands to the Inter-State Council; and call a Parliament session
Close
When Facebook gains the data on a billion Indians, it will be able to hold the Indian government hostage too. It didn’t dare to pull this stunt in Europe because of the General Data Protection Regulations (AP)
When Facebook gains the data on a billion Indians, it will be able to hold the Indian government hostage too. It didn’t dare to pull this stunt in Europe because of the General Data Protection Regulations (AP)

At the mercy of big tech billionaires

By Vivek Wadhwa
PUBLISHED ON JAN 13, 2021 07:46 PM IST
India needs stringent data protection laws. It also needs to encourage its tech industry to develop competitive social media products
Close
Data as a beneficial good is also covered in the Economic Survey 2019, which proposed that data gathered by governments on issues of social interest ought to be democratised in the interest of social welfare, or made a public good (Indranil Bhoumik/mint)
Data as a beneficial good is also covered in the Economic Survey 2019, which proposed that data gathered by governments on issues of social interest ought to be democratised in the interest of social welfare, or made a public good (Indranil Bhoumik/mint)

Data can be an asset for governance, growth and public welfare

By Amitabh Kant and Desh Gaurav Sekhri
PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 08:16 PM IST
Data is a critical component for measurable and actionable governance and policy perspectives, as well as for triggering innovation and growth
Close
Experts say preventing bird flu is not possible as little research has been done on the virus-carrying capability of migratory birds in CAF (Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Experts say preventing bird flu is not possible as little research has been done on the virus-carrying capability of migratory birds in CAF (Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times)

Handling the avian flu crisis | HT Editorial

PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 08:00 PM IST
2021 has started with an unprecedented bird flu epidemic in India, causing the death of thousands of wild and poultry birds in 10 states and bleeding the fast-growing poultry industry for a second time over the past year
Close
Assam, Jan 11 (ANI): BJP national president J.P. Nadda addresses the BJP supporters during a public meeting, at the Police parade ground in Silchar on Monday. (ANI)
Assam, Jan 11 (ANI): BJP national president J.P. Nadda addresses the BJP supporters during a public meeting, at the Police parade ground in Silchar on Monday. (ANI)

The BJP’s political pitch in Assam | HT Editorial

PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 08:00 PM IST
Even as it starts out as the favourite, the BJP must be careful in how it navigates the historical tensions on identity in the region
Close
Every year, floods and droughts affect 97.5 million and 140 million people, respectively (UDAY DEOLEKAR)
Every year, floods and droughts affect 97.5 million and 140 million people, respectively (UDAY DEOLEKAR)

Commit to a decade of climate resilience

By Arunabha Ghosh
PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 07:58 PM IST
India’s vulnerability to climate risks, growing experience with handling disasters, and new initiatives to strengthen infrastructure position it at the forefront for an adaptation action agenda
Close
State-provided salaries for housewives can work alongside investment in public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and improved access to education, decent jobs and workplace protection (Shutterstock)
State-provided salaries for housewives can work alongside investment in public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and improved access to education, decent jobs and workplace protection (Shutterstock)

Opening the black box of marriage

By Prabha Kotiswaran
UPDATED ON JAN 12, 2021 07:58 PM IST
There has been a debate recently over salaries for housewives
Close
Our study found an absence of in-group bias in one context, but it does not rule out other forms of bias in India’s legal system as a whole (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Our study found an absence of in-group bias in one context, but it does not rule out other forms of bias in India’s legal system as a whole (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In India’s lower judiciary, the absence of in-group bias

By Sam Asher, Paul Novosad and Aditi Bhowmick
UPDATED ON JAN 11, 2021 10:59 PM IST
There is evidence from around the world that judges discriminate in favour of litigants who share their identity. In contrast, we find no evidence of in-group bias by gender or religion in India’s lower judiciary.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP