It’s in the air. It’s the new buzzword of a ‘happening’ India. And it plays out in all its manifestations from Una in Gujarat to Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. From Jharkhand to Alwar in Rajasthan. It flows from the barrel of the state police in Mandsaur to the pellet guns of the paramilitary in Srinagar. One kills the other blinds.
The triggers are pulled with gleeful vengeance. A slew of pellets in exchange for a stone pelted at the force in Srinagar. A rat-tat of gunfire for a stone pelted at the police in Mandsaur. And when the state is not flexing its muscles it's the gau-rakshaks who fill in the gap by delivering vigilante justice attacking potential victims most fatally with sticks and iron-rods and petrol bombs or simply shoot them dead with desi pistols.
And, it seems intolerance, aggression, and violence has found its own growth rate too. Because despite Prime Minister Modi’s much-delayed reprimand to cow vigilantes, the issue played out favourably well for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh - the party’s new lab of social engineering-cum-nationalism. Remember, it all started with the brutal lynching of Akhlaq of Dadri in Western UP.
But violence in Mandsaur played out differently on the political chessboard in Madhya Pradesh. The news of death of five farmers in police firing that reached Bhopal from 300 kms away in Mandsaur must have jolted chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan out of his stupor. Driven to back foot over Vyapam scam - one of the biggest scams that has ever visited a chief minister of any Indian state - that has claimed several lives ever since it was brought to light four years ago, this was the last thing CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan wanted on his platter. The state police ensured the menu was served hot.
What does the chief minister do? Chauhan first denies police ever opened fire on agitating farmers. Secondly, his government goes on a propaganda overdrive saying farmers’ didn’t die of police bullets. Such penchant for denial of facts in the age of intruding smartphone cameras and a pumped-in social media snapping close on the heels. Later, a government version made no bones about defending police action saying they only retaliated after incidence of stone pelting by farmers. From Kashmir to Mandsaur, BJP governments maintain their visceral aversion to stone pelters.
The farmers in the Malwa region, already reeling under heavy debt, had been demanding minimum support price for their crops from the government. Last year the farmers had sown nigella seeds ( kalonji ) due to escalated government prices. This year due to even better harvest across Indian states including West Bengal, the prices came crashing down even in international market. The state government instead of taking cognisance of the alarming situation turned a deaf ear to farmers’ demand for MSP.
A similar situation confronted soybean farmers also. Madhya Pradesh is the largest producer of soybean but the farmers had to sell their crops much below the MSP. On top of it, state government insisted digital payment in place of hard cash for procuring produce from farmers in the mandis. This only aggravated their woes. Many farmers have gone jobless past few years because of the government’s regulation of selling of poppy husk. These farmers were surviving on debts already.
The chief minister claimed he has been a farmer himself and by that virtue was better placed to understand and appreciate their problems. So he goes on to sit on an indefinite fast until peace was restored in the state. The opposition Congress was quick to point out the CM’s innate ability to play-act even in times of crisis involving death of farmers at the hands of the police.
Also Read | Shivraj Singh Chouhan: My Govt stands firmly with farmers, will buy farm products and give profitable prices for it
No wonder then Mandsaur refuses to fall off front pages of national news dailies. And amidst all this news of violence grabbing headlines came along a piece of news that had had a balming effect on readers. This was about a remark by Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister for External Affairs, who the tweeple have grown so fond of because of her warmth, sensitively and willingness to pull an Indian out of distress from any part of the globe. A twitter user posed this imaginary question to the minister asking her whether she will be able to help someone stuck on planet mars. And pat came her reply - even if you are stuck on Mars, Indian embassy there will help you.
Nothing could be more ironical than the fact that a minister in the Modi government earns the reputation of saving a distressed soul even in an alien planet far away in outer space but many belonging to the same political gharana, to a ‘pariwar’ espousing cultural nationalism, would not think twice in taking a life and eliminating his space to eat, dress the way he wants to as enjoined on him by the country’s constitution.
In the long shot Mandsaur firing at farmers’ may not fall in the category of lumpenism and violence that passes off for cow vigilantism but the state violence that left six farmers dead, does cast a shadow on the ruler-ruled relationship. What is even more disturbing is the state’s predisposition to crush a democratic protest by people fighting for their right to be heard.
The government in Bhopal or New Delhi need to take a leaf out of Sushma Swaraj’s book. Broken hearts need a healing touch. Kashmir to Mandsaur, Una to Rajasthan, the governments of the day have done little to heal the wounds. Instead, they have been accused of preparing a climate that perpetuates violence and have found ways and means to justify that violence.
Also Read | MP farmers protest | Shivraj Singh Chouhan at fast: We will help our farmer brothers to earn better profits
One is reminded of Pop star Michael Jackson’s lyrics from his iconic number - Beat It - from his most popular album, Thriller, released in 1982. A line from it said : They’ll kick you, then they beat you, then they’ll tell you it’s fair.
Only the Modi government along with the BJP ruled state governments have been able to decipher the true meaning of the song thirty years down the line and been able to put it in context - Saath hai, vishwas hai, ho raha vikas hai.