By Sandeep Pandey, Anandi Pandey, Kushagra Kumar*
In a surprise move, in the midst of farmers’ struggle, the government has celebrated the Chauri Chaura incident and glorified the families of freedom fighters involved. As part of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement when there was violence involving setting the police station in Chauri Chaura, near Gorakhpur, on fire killing 22 policemen as a reaction to police firing on protestors in which three people were killed, Gandhiji was so disturbed by the violence that he decided to suspend the entire movement.
While the sentiments of people who were involved in burning the police station along with the police personnel can be understood the act of violence cannot be justified. The Bhartiya Janata Party by choosing to honour the relatives of people involved in this incident, 19 of whom were hanged, 110 given life term in jail and others long term jail sentences, seems not only to be questioning the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi but also glorifying the violence.
Simultaneously, the government is showing condemnation for the violence that occurred on January 26. It shows selective valorization of certain instances while belittling of other crucial instances which involve marginalized communities.
BJP’s predicament is twofold. Its parent ideology of Hindutva, represented by Hindu Mahasabha and Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh at that time, did not support the Indian freedom struggle. Now with its hyper nationalism ideology it doesn’t want to lose any opportunity to project itself as champion of Indian sovereignty. This is the reason that, leaving aside its own leaders like Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar it highlights Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh to gain some vicarious credit for freedom movement.
Secondly, the history of Hindutva ideology is full of violence. Starting with Mahatma Gandhi’s murder to demolition of Babri mosque which provoked immediate communal killings and serial bomb blasts in Mumbai soon thereafter, it is seen to be patronising mob lynchings and vigilante violence over the issue of cow and killing, jailing and humiliation of dissenting intellectuals, all with the sole purpose of mobilization of Hindu votes. BJP in its history also failed to take any stringent measures against the atrocities committed against Muslims, Dalits, tribals and women.
There was strong reaction from the government and its supporters, including dedicated media, to solidarity extended to farmers’ movement by climate change activist Greta Thunberg. Within days of this a major natural disaster took place in Chamoli, causing an avalanche and flash floods in Rishiganga and Dhauliganga causing damage to human lives and washing away of Tapovan Vishnugad and Rishiganga hydroelectric projects, almost as a response from nature to the criticism of Greta Thunberg for her intervention in what is being described as an internal matter of India.
It is worthwhile to recall that our indigenous activist Professor GD Agrawal, also known as Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand died fasting for 112 days in 2018 demanding stoppage of work on all hydroelectric projects in upper reaches of Ganga. Upon his death when young hermit Brahmachari Atmabodhanand undertook another long fast, in negotiations with Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga, the head of Matri Sadan in Haridwar which was the site of both fasts, Swami Shivanand, had sought suspension of work on three hydroelectric projects, one of which was Tapovan Vishnugad.
It suggests frustration of Sangh Parivar of not having contributed to freedom struggle or in any worthwhile movement for social reconstructionProfessor Agrawal, as a premonition, had warned Narendra Modi that he will hold the Prime Minister responsible for his death if it happens due to fasting. Modi did not listen to him but the nature has taken a decision to halt this project. It is better if the government pays attention to national and international environmental activists in what they say about the phenomenon of modern development with attendant ecological damage.
Just as climate change cannot be seen in isolation by nations, similarly, the farmers’ movement cannot be termed as internal matter of our country. Human Rights are universal and hence anybody belonging to anywhere can criticize their violations in any other part of the world. Moreover, farming has a direct bearing on climate change and is affected by it.
Stubble burning is seen as a major source of pollution and an alternative has to be found to it. Similarly, corporatization of farm sector, the inevitable consequence of the three controversial laws, will lead to more carbon emissions adversely affecting the climate. It will further marginalize farmers, especially landless labourers and women.
PM has ridiculed the protesters by calling them ‘andolan-jeevi.’ Again, he and the family of RSS he belongs to have no idea of what it takes to run a movement as they have a history of either not participating in movements or seeking mercy of the government to come out of jail if they were arrested in any movement.
It is not just Savarkar, but RSS activists during Emergency and movements like the one against Enron in Maharashtra, have demonstrated similar tendencies. They demolished the mosque at Ayodhya during the BJP’s rule in Uttar Pradesh under Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and then all accused were acquitted by the court again during their own government.
Modi had the audacity to compare the building of Ram temple with the freedom movement of India. It is the frustration of Sangh Parivar of not having contributed to the freedom struggle or in any worthwhile movement for social reconstruction that they try to coopt national struggles and iconic figures. Some activists have now termed the BJP and PM as ‘corporate-jeevi.’
Having failed to label the farmers’ movement itself as a movement of terrorists and Khalistani supporters, now the government is trying to find a link between a pro-Khalistani organization and the activists of Extinction Rebellion, an international network against climate change, three of whom are under government scanner for provoking the 26 January incident whereas the group was merely trying to mobilize support for a twitter storm. It is ironical that the government which pretends not to be under any pressure from a real movement of farmers on ground feels threatened by a storm over social media.
*Sandeep Pandey, a Magsaysay award winning social activist, is Vice President of Socialist Party (India); Anandi Pandey is BA III year student at Ashoka University; Kushagra Kumar is a student in Lucknow