Privilege Over Principle

There has been this pattern of reducing national discourse to a uni-dimensional level by not only our media and films but even by our public intellectuals.

Where facts, reason, rationale, nuance are put aside to create a narrative based on perceptions and feelings – where crass emotion is King.

It’s no doubt facile, lazy and shamefully expedient that we rarely discuss anything seriously enough, in depth, to understand issues at hand.

But then this should not be surprising as these are the same folk for whom the Mughal invasion begins and ends with songs of Mughal e Azam, upgraded to Jodha Akbar, Anarkalis and Jhoomars.

The challenge of interfaith marriages, the dilemma of conversions, the violence of coercion all sorted through an airbrushed advertisement of a mass-produced jewellery brand …which they then said, was not understood by the outraged because the jewellery was much above their station.

~The problem isn’t

that Johnny can’t read.

The problem isn’t even

that Johnny can’t think.

The problem is that

Johnny doesn’t know

what thinking is;

he confuses it with feeling~ Thomas Sowell

In this well-sorted, all boxed and labelled world you dare not question anything because that would make you Islamophobic, bigoted, intolerant, communal, apathetic, ungrateful….even Anti Farmer.

Now that we somewhat have a clue of the shallowness in thought and debate that is encouraged in our society, it is no wonder that even today in 2020 most of the country sees farmers, especially from Bihar, UP, Maharashtra, Odisha, Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh through the prism of Mother India and Do Bigha Zameen.

The ones who plough their fields shoulder to shoulder with their emaciated oxen, drowning under drought or flood, poverty, penury, blood sucking money lenders and unpaid bank loans.

The imagery is such that only the farmer from Punjab is the poster boy of the Green Revolution. 

He is that hearty, jovial Veerjee on his tractor, his bright safaa a flutter in his sunny mustard fields, his beautiful farmhands doing a happy Bhangra while his tube-well gushes precious water, he wipes the lassi froth from his impressive moustache with the back of his solid hands while his healthy, well fed buffalo tethered at a distance, moos with satisfaction and owner’s pride. 

Of course, somewhere in a file stored in our fuzzy brains we know these to be cliches. The oversimplification of stuff that we didn’t want to know more about – small, marginal farmers, the sharecroppers, tenant farmers and migrant labour.

It must be said, however, that a few years ago, another picture found its way into this gallery that sort of skewed the brave, gritty charcoal and the cinematic, bountiful one – the Balcony Gobi Farmer and the 10-acre landholding ‘farmer’ that miraculously yielded a 10-crore income.

Farming techniques aside the artists were swift to distance themselves from their artwork and defend until hoarse, the plight of their less fortunate brethren – an election must-do.

Nevertheless, the seed of suspicion (pun not intended) was sown and thereafter most of us sifted the categories for ourselves.

-Those in it due to circumstance, lack of opportunity, living hand to mouth.

-Those in it to make a successful commercial venture.

-And those in it only and purely for tax benefits, stolen/grabbed land, taking undue advantage of their position of power and privilege.

So, when two months after, repeat, two months after, the Farm Bills were hailed as pathbreaking reform, this Toli arrived at our borders heralded by people such as Yogendra Yadav.

That in itself should have said it all…. however, to continue …

Our fatigue and cynicism knew no bounds!

The NCR worn out by CAA Protests, Delhi Riots, the Lockdown and the stress of social distancing in these pandemic times could not bring itself to muster up any empathy. 

 In fact, in many quarters, sad to say, as a Bharat Bandh is declared, there is only derision because it becomes clearer that Communists, Congress and Islamists with their enlisted overseas Khalistani friends are a party to this ‘protest’.

Even if there were any legitimate apprehensions those were lost in a deja vu when bit actors, singers, looking for a spot of instant fame jumped on the bandwagon and expounded on geopolitics, South Asia…Bhindranwale …

The final straw of course was when Shaheen Bagh’s Dadi turned up and confirmed that the choreographers had no new ideas and the plot remained the same – more strife, more division, more empty slogans so that the Ancien Regime and its beneficiaries can return at the earliest (so it thinks) to their corrupt old rent-seeking acche din.

Sorry, Veerjee, saanu maaf karo!

We might have been dumbed down over decades with force-fed narratives, but this much we understand –

This is a reform that took seventy years to come despite being on the manifestos of all those who are protesting against it today. It is also worth noting that –

-The law is not applicable in Punjab.

-The demands are not covered by the Act.

– MSP has not been cancelled.

So tell us again, what exactly is your ‘protest’ about ?

For starters, let’s hear farmer stories of hope, a better future and beginnings from other parts of the country please.

Meanwhile Punjab will take a break, while it calibrates and learns to face new realities whose time, undoubtedly has come.


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