Enough is enough: No matter how ‘worthy’ the cause, disturbing other citizens cannot be allowed to carry on
One can be allowed to have differing opinions on the validity of protests, whether it is the Punjabi farmers and middlemen at Singhu Border or the anti-Modi protestors at Shaheen Bagh, holding the Capital to ransom, often with the illogical support of some in power, but normal life in the city is getting out of hand. The Delhi-NCR is the economic heartbeat of the nation; the demand from Delhi and cities surrounding the Capital not only keeps the economy going but brings in the much-needed tax revenues to the Government. Sure, blockading the city might get your message heard but, as the farmers protesting all along Delhi’s periphery for over 21 days now are discovering, it is having rapidly diminishing returns as local citizens are upset at their lives and their economic prospects being ruined. As it is, barely had over eight months of inert and moribund public life seen the first flickers of physical and economic activity when it was suddenly forced to speed down again, this time by the growers from hinterland who had come over to the doors of power at the Centre to throw down the gauntlet, miffed as they were at the passage in Parliament of three farm laws without being consulted. We might celebrate the rural economy and the farmer in India, which unfortunately continues to fuel the fallacy that agricultural economy drives the nation, it does not; it is the urban economy that drives India. If farmers who are addicted to their Minimum Support Prices (MSP) want to continue to feed off the teat of the State, they need the economy to grow.
In addition, the longer these protests continue the more the hypocrisy of protestors, whether they are upper-caste landowners at Singhu Border or a largely-Muslim protest at Shaheen Bagh, becomes apparent. The fact of the matter is that these protestors cannot defeat Narendra Modi and Amit Shah and the BJP’s electoral machine at the hustings and the longer the protests continue, they end up solidifying the BJP’s votes, maybe not in Punjab or Delhi but definitely in the BJP’s core vote bank. The Supreme Court has waded into the farmer protests, although it need not have, and, like in Shaheen Bagh, albeit horribly post-facto, should ensure that the farmers lift their blockade. If we are all protesting about the mythical ‘common man’ who has been ‘wronged’ by the laws, we should bust that myth. The real ‘common man’ is actually the middle-class security guard or the taxi driver whose life has been ripped asunder by the pandemic who needs to get to work and for whom the blockade is actually ruining his/her economic prospects further. It is almost certain that the BJP, with its vote bank intact, will ride out these protests like it did Shaheen Bagh. Unseating the BJP from power in Uttar Pradesh and the northern States is a pipe dream and it is more likely that the BJP will further consolidate Hindu votes as well as seats in the heartland. There is another factor too. The protests are getting invaded by all sorts of elements inimical to India, whether they are Communists under instructions from Beijing or those who continue to worship Bhindranwale. Reforming India is not an easy task and many have despaired at how long it has taken Narendra Modi to make meaningful reforms, and while his methods have been almost brute-force not wanting to give the Opposition one chance to block laws in Parliament, although with an almost-majority in the Rajya Sabha the fate of most parliamentary discussions is now fait accompli. And if the Opposition believes that street protests instead of a rational economic policy are the way forward, it is sadly mistaken.