Farmers Protest has completed one year on the borders of Delhi. The names Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur became a household name across families in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The government of India has taken a decision to repeal the three contentious laws after long agitation and episodes of violence against the farmers.
The largest and the longest protest in the human history comes from textbook definition of Sikh religion’s ‘fight against injustice’. Sikhi in many ways was the powerhouse that propelled the people towards Delhi. From mowing down the barricades to demolishing each and every propaganda that state threw on farmers Sikhi acted as both shield and sword of the farmers.
Guru Sahib’s Prakash and Nishan Sahib at Protest sites are not mere symbolisms of religion but of the fact that this battle is fought on the lines of Dharm and truth. Understating the impact of farmers protest on Panth is both vital and critical at this point. The Indian media houses in particular shy away from discussions revolving Sikhi and farmers in the same breath. There are political aspirations behind that as well as the larger picture of undermining the Sikh or panthic unity. In this piece I am going to discuss few pointers on how Farmers Protest helped Sikhs and Sikh mindset.
1. Narrowing down of differences between Sikhs in India and Diaspora.
Indian Sikhs have always been at cross hair of the state where they had to prove their nationalism to secure better lives. This is a fact that we can’t run away from and it is also true that even after sacrificing lives for the nation they were not treated right by the same nation. We have examples of how serving army men were butchered in 1984 as well as recent ones of how army veterans were locked behind bars for being part of farmers protest. Indian Sikhs have been portrayed for long as an entity that is against the just demands of Punjab. The demonisation of Sikh struggle is carried out by the state using its pawns and sometimes the false campaigns (include BBC report). The larger picture or the X-ray of the state came out with the farmers protest throwing a large chunk of Indian Sikhs to understand that state is not above Panth. Farmers Protest brought together the activists from across the globe to talk about one subject and that was Punjab and its issues. The narrowing down of differences did annoy the state and its agencies given that many OCI cards were revoked and philanthropists banned from entry.
2. More than agriculture
Many activists like Simranjit Singh Mann, Deep Sidhu, Lakha Sidhana have stressed and hoped that farmers protest will open the pandora box of long standing issues of Punjab which political parties have ignored all together. To an extent the farmers protest did open the issues of SYL, Punjabi Language, Chandigarh.
The disillusionment of peasantry sent the political parties of Punjab back to their drawing boards. Many parties had to rethink their stance on sacrilege of Guru Garanth Sahib and pending justice. One of the important impact of farmers protest which was seen in Panthic politics was protest against the demolition of discovered bunga Near Akal Takht. SGPC which has hardly stepped back on marblising the buildings had to give up the idea.
The Indian media sections including the liberal ones do not believe in Punjab problem as a Sikh rights problem and hence would never want the protest to be discussed in those lines. To be fair to the farmer leaders the Panth or the Sikh driving force did not take the protest into their hands and kept the demands as desired by SKM.
3. The narrowing down of Caste differences
It is important to mention here that many farmers who gave up their lives were not owning any lands. The dilution of caste based differences in the Panth could be seen from the fact that Dalit activist Nodeep Kaur faced torture and imprisonment but did not give up for the cause of farmers protest and labour rights. Farmers Protest May have just touched the tip of an iceberg called caste differences and bigger tasks lie ahead to demolish the iceberg all together.
4. Strengthening of Gurdwaras and Decline in apostasy
Gurdwaras were and are the powerhouses of the farmers protest. Be it the announcements from the Gurdwaras in Punjab about the Jathas that would be leaving for delhi borders or the entire organisation of langars during the sowing and reaping season, the Gurdwaras did step up beyond the daily task of nitnem attended by few white bearded ones.
The Amrit sanchar programs saw a rapid rise in this period of one year with many people taking the Pahul. The sanchar programs took place not just on the borders of Delhi but in the main heartland of Punjab as well. The Sikh resilience and valour was appreciated by global actors and organisations drawing many people towards Sikhi and also bringing home the apostles.
5. Dissent is Right.
Thanks to the farmers protest many Sikhs became aware about the issues of Punjab. The problems of agriculture do not exist in isolation when it comes to Punjab. It is clear to vast majority of Sikhs that injustice was done to Punjab during 1947 and that there are unfulfilled promises which will keep taking the shape of agitations in one form or the other.
The nation accepts at this point that it had gone into dark ages as commented by many leading papers as well and that dissent in India was at its lowest. The farmers did face the wrath of state trying to hold on to its inertia but in the end dissent and right to dissent won.