Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that the three controversial farm laws will be repealed in the winter session of the Parliament. He was addressing the nation on Guru Nanak Jayanti. The farm laws passed in 2020, have met with protests for over a year now. PM Modi said that the goal was to empower farmers but the government, despite its best efforts, could not convince them.
Farm leaders and protestors have welcomed the decision and are contemplating vacating the protest sites.
Let's have a look at how the farm protestors managed to make the centre bow down -
In September 2020, the BJP government passed three farm laws -
- Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
- Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020
- Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020
Anticipating mass protests, Shiromani Akali Dal, BJP's Punjab ally broke the alliance and, belonging to the party, the Food and Agriculture Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the union ministry.
These farm laws were passed in the parliament despite strong opposition, both within the houses and on the streets. Ruckus was created as opposition members rushed to the speaker's chair and constantly raised slogans. The house was adjourned following that. TMC MP Derek O'Brien alleged afterward that he was manhandled and that the laws were passed through a voice vote, despite a sizeable number of opposition members saying no.
Protests against the farm laws spread to all the parts of India and the farmers of Haryana and Punjab became the centre of farmers protests. They started marching towards Delhi terming their march as 'Delhi Challo' (Dilli Chalo) but the Haryana Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse them. Punjab CM Capt. Amarinder Singh and Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar spoke in the media against each other as the farmers were stuck at Haryana border.
As more and more farmers started gathering at Haryana border, topped with the criticism that Haryana government was receiving for stopping a democratic protest, they lifted the barricades and allowed the farmers to march towards Delhi.
The farmers then started an indefinite protest at the Tikri border of North Delhi. Soon, the protest spread to other borders of Delhi as well and protest sites started coming up at Ghazipur border, Delhi-Haryana borders, the highways connecting Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to Delhi as well. Traffic on these routes was heavily affected. The situation was getting so out of hand that the police had to install concrete barriers at the borders of Delhi.
Farm leaders also called for Bharat Bandh on 8th December, 2020.
The Supreme Court which was seeing a bunch of petitions filed before it for quashing these farm laws started contemplating setting up an "impartial and independent" panel of agriculture experts and farmer unions to resolve the impasse.
The top court said it was of the view that the farmers’ right to protest should not infringe the fundamental rights of others to move freely and in getting essential food and other supplies as right to protest cannot mean blockade of the entire city. Therefore, it suggested the Centre to put a hold on the farm laws.
Several rounds of talks between the government and farm leaders took place in December 2020 but no common ground was found. The farmers were adamant about getting the farm laws repealed while the government didn't budge.
Farm Laws Stayed
Finally, on 12th January 2021, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the farm laws and formed a committee for resolving conflict between the government and the farmers. Farmer protestors' umbrella organization Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) said that though it appreciated the concern of the SC, it would not participate in any committee hearings and only speak to the government.
As the farmers were still demanding that the three farm laws be fully repealed, they announced that they would carry out a tractor rally inside Delhi on Republic Day, 2021. Security was beefed up in Delhi but the protest turned violent at the end of the day. Police had to use tear gas and lathi charge to disperse the violent crowd of farmers but the damage to Delhi was already done. A group of protestors entered inside the Red Fort and vandalised the premises. The parade was called off soon as the farm leaders blamed outsiders for turning the protests violent.
A protestor climbing on a pole at Delhi's Red Fort during the Republic Day 2021 violence
As the spring of 2021 passed, the second wave of Covid-19 hit India like never before. Protesting farmers announced that they still would still hold the protests. The government planned 'operation clean' to evict the farmers from the protest sites but they did not move out. Even their leader, most notably the BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, reiterated their determination to stay at the protest sites.
The protestors didn't do any major activities during the second wave but resumed their protest as the Covid-19 cases started declining. The problem of roadblocks had caused inconvenience to interstate commuters to Delhi, a lot of trouble as the Supreme court observed. Some of its observations were, "Farm Laws Have Been Stayed, What Are You Protesting Against?" on a writ petition to protest at Jantar Mantar, "You Have Strangulated Entire City, Now You Want To Come Inside?" and "Farmers Have Right To Protest But Can't Keep Roads Blocked Indefinitely."
Lakhimpur Kheri Violence
On 3rd October 2021, a car mowed down a group of farmers rallying in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri. Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra Teni's son was alleged to have been present inside the car. [Read the full series of events here] Following that, there was a major political unrest in the state of Uttar Pradesh with political leaders like Priyanka Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Chandrashekhar Azad being prevented from reaching the site in the follow-up protests. The son of the Union MoS was arrested and is being investigated.
Most recently, the Punjab Assembly had passed a resolution against the farm laws. Captain Amarinder Singh, the ex-CM of Punjab was in talks with the BJP and an alliance between his new party Punjab Lok Congress and BJP was being contemplated by the experts for the upcoming Punjab Assembly Elections in 2022. It is widely known that the three farm laws were a huge bone of contention between BJP and the voters of Punjab.
On Friday, November 19, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation announced that the centre has decided to repeal the farm laws.
After a series of protests spanning for over a year now, the farm laws are likely to get repealed in the winter session of the Parliament. Watch Prime Minister's address here,