Following the violence in Delhi on Republic Day and the lodging of FIRs against the farmers’ leaders, it is unlikely that the present mode of protest against the farm laws will continue. Not only have some groups opted out, others are now under pressure from local people to leave because of the economic disruption they have caused in the areas where they are sitting in protest. Once investigations get into full gear and the actual attackers are identified it will become even more difficult for the leadership to justify its actions. As long as the protests were peaceful, the moral high ground was with the ‘farmers’. Now it has shifted and all the conspiracy theories about the BJP having engineered the riot cannot win back the advantage. The people have seen with their own eyes what happened.
It is now the turn of the opposition parties to take the battle to Parliament with the Budget Session about to begin. Eleven of them have already announced that they would boycott the President’s address. Unfortunately, this is not a good start because such decisions only mean that, instead of well-reasoned arguments on the floor of the House, they are choosing to go with theatrics. It must not be forgotten that the people are watching and they are fully capable of distinguishing between empty bluster and solid content.
All the same, this is where contentious issues need to be sorted out. It is important to look at the larger picture – there is no point in making a scene if, at election time, the votes are cast elsewhere. There are important state elections approaching and the important message on the farm laws and other issues will be communicated through the EVMs to the politicians on what the people want.
It is clear that any attempt by the protesting farmers to march on Parliament is bound to result in further embarrassment to the cause. There is too much at stake for the issue to be decided on the basis of muscle and mob power. Their best bet was the committee of experts set up by the Supreme Court, which would have looked at every objection and provided its objective insight. That opportunity was lost because, as in every agitation, there are elements that do not want a resolution and are interested only in deepening the differences further. All one can hope for is some enlightened debate in Parliament that can shed some light on the issue for all concerned.