This June in Ontario, Canada, a Pakistani-Canadian family was out for a walk when a fanatic rammed his speeding pick-up truck into them. Four died in that hate crime against Muslims, which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a terrorist attack. The list of such incidents is very long worldwide. But in India, a week after farmers accused Ashish Mishra, the son of the junior Union Home Minister, of running over and killing four farmers and a journalist, it took Supreme Court intervention to get a semblance of state action going. The police have arrested Ashish for “not cooperating” in the investigation, not for the allegations he is facing. Hannan Mollah, top leader of the All Indian Kisan Sabha and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organisation of the ongoing farmer agitation, dubbed the Lakhimpur Kheri episode as an attack against farmers. Mollah, an eight-time Member of Parliament, does not think this is the last of the attacks on farmers, for the farmers have made the ruling political class afraid. Excerpts from an interview with Jasvinder Sidhu.
Do you think what happened in Lakhimpur Kheri is similar to what other countries have witnessed in recent years, where cars have been rammed into innocent people?
Absolutely. This [Lakhimpur incident] is worst than what other countries have seen. It is a barbaric terror act. After the ruling party and the central government failed in all their efforts by blaming, dividing, and communalising, now, out of frustration, they have gone for the RSS line of attack: terrorise dissidents. Now, they have taken the course of intimidating and threatening the agitating farmers.
Do you see a pattern here? I mean, is there any possibility that such attacks were planned?
Such incidents have happened in three BJP-ruled states. First, they did it in Haryana. Then two people were killed in Assam, and now five farmers were [allegedly] crushed under the wheel of an SUV by the son of the deputy Home Minister at the Centre. It is a complete RSS plan: terrorise and kill. The Taliban is one type of terrorist organisation, which destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan. They (the RSS), who destroyed the Babri Mosque, are similar. They want to create fear in the minds of the farmers.
Do you foresee the possibility of more such attacks against farmers and their ongoing movement?
We do expect such attacks in other states also. The BJP and RSS are campaigning against the farmers, calling them criminals and worse... So, we can see a repeat of such brutal acts in other states also.
Many believe that the farmer laws, rushed through Parliament by the Centre last year, have become a prestige issue for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Do you think this is the biggest hurdle to revoking these controversial laws? We also hear complaints that only one or two people are running the central government, which is why there is a deadlock in the negotiations with farmers. What do you think?
Modi is personally responsible for this crisis. He is propagating hundred-per cent falsehoods in the media regarding Minimum Support Prices (MSP) and the farm laws. I never heard so many lies in my entire political career! And yes, this government is run totally by one person, and his name is Narendra Modi. When I was a Member of Parliament, every day, I would meet six or seven ministers. But for the last seven years, we cannot get an appointment to meet any minister. Many ministers have told me that we cannot give you an appointment because we cannot give you any word. What this means is, everything gets decided elsewhere. Ministers do not have any power to make any promise to fellow members of Parliament.
The agitation against the three controversial farm laws is completing a year next month. What is your assessment of this journey so far?
This agitation is in a critical stage. It is going to complete one year. It is the longest-ever democratic movement in the world. Nowhere in the world have crores of people agitated for this long. In a democracy, the government must listen to people’s voices. It should discuss and solve the issues they raise. But here, the government is saying it will not talk or discuss the problems people raise. They think the farmers will get tired and, defeated, will return home. So far, more than six hundred farmers have died—but we will not go back. It is the determination of the farmers.
As a labour and farmer leader, you have been part of many protests and agitations in your long public life. How different is this fight against the government?
This movement is unique. First, it is the most extended movement in the country’s history, and second, it is the most peaceful agitation. Three, it is also the most united moment in history, as around 500 organisations across the nation are working together for it. All sections of people also support it. And while this coming together is the character and strength of the movement, the government is fascistic. It is why we cannot go back home and will continue the movement.
Many provisions in the three farm laws, such as removing the limit on the stock of products, could create market monopolies. Whoever has piles of food or grain stock can control prices during any crisis, and consumers may have to pay manipulated costs. Do you think the morcha has succeeded in conveying this future threat to citizens?
Ordinary people, and a large number of farmers, understand that these three farms laws sound the death-knell for them. Because of the longevity of this movement, every day, this message of farmers is going out to the masses. Initially, people may not have understood the long-term issues, but now, most people have realised what we are fighting for.
Is it not a miracle that an agitation is close to entering its second year that a large section of the national media had dubbed as sponsored by Khalistanis, ‘fake farmers’ and paid criminals?
Yes, it is a miracle that we have survived such a prolonged agitation despite a large section of the national media calling us criminals and terrorists. But we do not bother about this, as we know the media has sold itself to this government. Even calling them “Godi media” is no use because what they are doing is far worse than this label can capture. The national media is behaving criminally. They are campaigning against the farmer movement as Modi’s puppets.