To term peaceful protesters fighting for their rights as though they are anti-national is not new to this country or to this ‘Badiandolan Jeevi Party’.
The farmers’ protests have now reached new levels of name-calling, with conspiracy theories doing the rounds as though children are playing Chinese Whispers and the mud-slinging at our true daughters and sons of the soil should actually put our nation to shame. But did we hear our Prime Minister apologise for women being called all sorts of names? Did we hear him say such mud-slinging is embarrassing and India will be mocked by the international fraternity? Instead, the conspiracy theories are being ably supported by the government, party spokespersons and then finally, on Mann ki Baat, the self-chat that is widely publicised, giving further impetus to these conspiracy theorists.
‘Andolan -Jeevi jamaat’: Community of revolutionary protesters
These advisers and admen have thoughtfully coined terms for their leader and one can’t help but wonder if they had paid that much attention when the farm bills were passed in a jiffy. Also, why are the protesters not being called farmers/kisaan? Obviously to send a wrong message to the citizens, who continue to believe their leader blindly. But to term peaceful protesters fighting for their rights as though they are anti-national is not new to this country or to this Badiandolan Jeevi Party. They have thrived on protests, be it bandhs, rasta rokos, train rokos, you name it, they have bunged a spanner in the works. They have conducted themselves far worse than the current, rightfully striking farmers.
India’s sanskar and tradition is embedded in protests and revolution. Why is it shocking now? Our Independence was not given in alms, or on a silver platter. Right from the Go Back Simon, Dandi March, Quit India movement, a bunch of protest marches and revolutions got us freedom. Our revolutionary leaders have been Shahid Bhagat Singh and Mahatma Gandhi, though both are not in the same league. His peaceful protests and fast unto death satyagraha were protests. Each had a distinct ideology for freedom. From what we have been taught about our freedom movement, the leaders and the various fights for liberty, independence, equality and freedom, interestingly, Punjab has been the leader of freedom, dissent and revolution. Be it the green revolution for farming or now, the protests to repeal the three farm bills. But instead of heralding the state for taking the lead, it is being singled out and blamed for all sorts of anti-national activities. Now let us examine the vicious conspiracy to try and point out fingers at a particular community — jamaat.
Early during the Covid-19, pandemic outbreak we saw how the BJP-led government tried to blame the Tablighi Jamaat and the religious event held in Nizamuddin, Delhi. The home ministry was directly responsible for the way people were misled into believing the canard spread about this jamaat. Eventually, The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court cleared 29 foreign nationals and six Indians in connection with the Tablighi jamaat event and said they had been made a scapegoat. Yet again, the PM has used the term jamaat. He clearly said they are a jamaat, not a samudaay or congregation. The insinuation is rather clear.
Speaking of andolans and anti-national activities, gladly photographs of December 6, 1992, have been doing rounds. Andolan Jeevi hater leader is on the rath, in black and white, (truth couldn’t have been more stark), cheek-to-cheek with L K Advani, the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other leaders, as they led the karsevaks, the very same who pulled down the Babri masjid. After the India-Pakistan war, the Congress party’s functioning in Gujarat had worsened and by 1973, Modi is said to have developed “a keen interest in social activism”.
Of course, he has participated in several protests. Whenever there was an outrage against the Congress, protests against their policies we have seen full-fledged andolans and movements against that party, led by the BJP and masterminded by their leaders, with Anna Hazare being the face of that movement. Now, if that isn’t that Andolan Jeevi, what is?
While the country tried to deal with events of January 26, which clearly showed the government and police pattern of violence against the farmers and tried to infiltrate their protests, two prominent women icons simply tweeted their support. One being the pop icon, Rihanna, who simply Tweeted and shared an article that stated Internet services of the protesting farmers had been cut. She wrote, “Why aren’t we talking about this #FarmersProtest”. From then on, until now, we continue to speak about it. Later, Greta Thunberg wrote, “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.” She tweeted a tool kit which she removed and reported the following day, on February 4. The minute the two women followed by Mia Khalifa had extended their support, the Badiandolan Jeevi Party had supplied dossiers and information that could actually put India to shame. The party’s IT cell went into an obvious overdrive, calling these women all sorts of names, accusing them of having been paid a few dollars by the Poetic Justice Foundation and a leading English news channel went on to call it an ‘anarchy plot’. Loudmouth panellists just threw accusations at the two women. On social media, they were called has-beens, attention-seekers and that English channel even went on to question Rihanna spending her own money to visit a strip bar in the US. Mia Khalifa got the nastiest barbs while Meena Harris, niece of US vice president Kamala Harris has been getting the worst of threats.
Interestingly, the government did not clamp down on those who put out reams of rubbish against these women. Now, more troll bhakts have been asked to become cyber vigilantes and report activities such as the Google toolkit and those of the ‘andolanjeevi jamaat’. This online scrutiny comes from a man who as Chief Minister of Gujarat, in 2012, was upset with the then Congress-led Central Government’s move to put curbs on social media.
What irony, here the PM and the BJP IT cell were spreading fake news and lies while blaming the west for ‘interfering’ in the internal affairs of India. All that had been said was there was a need to discuss the treatment being meted out to farmers and to support them. Oh, did you see how Rihanna was made Rehana and Greta’s morphed photograph, with a dupatta covering her head, was circulated, apart from other unspeakable horrors?
Clearly, the government is running scared. First, they passed the three bills using the voice vote, anticipating stiff opposition to these bills. It was evident from the beginning, they would pass it at any cost and not entertain any objection. The way the PM has dealt with this issue and then protests about his image being tarnished, but what is worse is that the country’s image and reputation have taken a bigger hit. It does not befit the head of a country to be seen as unable to rein in trolls who are the actual parasites, as opposed to the protesters whom he refers to thus. Targeting women is never appropriate; this should be common knowledge for a government claiming to be peaceful, and ‘sanskari‘ and there will be consequences, as is always the case.
This entire episode has not still died down. It is after September that for the first time we heard the PM talk of the Minimum Support Price staying. But this claim is not corroborated in the bills, nor has there been a rollback to get this condition inserted, something that the farmers have been saying from Day 1. Meanwhile, the barbed wire, iron spikes and other restrictions continue to be placed, making the Singhu, Ghazipur and other cities bordering Delhi. To call our true toilers parasites and treat them as such does not bode well for this government and its leaders.
Neeta Kolhatkar is a senior journalist with over 30 years of work experience across different media platforms. She is currently a freelancer and media consultant.
(Views Expressed Are Personal)
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