The ongoing farmers’ protests have disrupted life in the National Capital Region, not just hampering food supplies, preventing free movement of people, but also seriously impacting industrial production. The Supreme Court, too, has made clear that the right to protest cannot impact on the fundamental rights of other citizens. Unfortunately, there is little more that the court can do as the problem is in the political domain. It has sought, as it did in earlier situations, to formulate some kind of a workable consensus that would end the impasse, but that is not exactly what is required of it. It has to lay down the legal position, particularly with regard to what the farmers’ unions are up to. A clear position on how permissible the protests are would strengthen the government’s hand in whatever happens next.
Essentially, the farmers have made known their opposition to the newly enacted agricultural laws, but there is a limit to how far they can pursue their protests. Presently, it seems the plan is to make life so miserable for the ‘captive’ sections of the NCR population that the government is forced to take punitive action or surrender. This would lead possibly to bloodshed, even the loss of lives, providing protestors the justification to indulge in violence where they can, creating a constituency for other kinds of actions, including foreign interference of several kinds. This would not only be betrayal of the large number of innocent farmers present at the blockade, who actually believe their cause is just, but also vindicate the allegations of those that claim there are anti-national forces behind the movement.
Ideally, having made their point, the farmers should wait for the next general elections, building up opinion against the present government in the interim. In the meanwhile, they would also experience the actual impact of the new laws, particularly whether their fears are justified. If the laws prove beneficial, there would be no reason to continue with the opposition. Otherwise, the farmers around the country can vote out the Modi Government and bring in those who would withdraw these laws. Why the desperate hurry to take the contest to an unacceptable extreme that would have much wider ramifications, considering the numerous elements that have skin in the game? And, what is the guarantee that, should the laws be withdrawn under pressure, the government will not anyway wind down the MSP system if it actually wants to – there are many ways to do so? The sad truth is that the agitation has assumed its present size merely because it could, not because it is in any way justified. This is a shortcoming in the system that must be addressed in the future; otherwise it may prove an even greater threat to national security than at the present.