After 14 months of huge protests, India’s ruling right-wing BJP government, spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, finally scrapped the three controversial neoliberal agriculture legislation. On the day of the Guru Purab festival, when Sikhs commemorate the birth of the religion’s founder Guru Nanak, Mr. Modi announced the news on national television. Many of the farmers whose barricades and protests have surrounded New Delhi for over a year are Punjabi Sikhs.
He urged the protesters to return home, noting that the legislation will be repealed formally in parliament in December. He claimed he was “apologizing to the nation,” but only for failing to persuade farmers of the laws’ merits, not for putting them through this chaos in the first place. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella group of mass farmer’s organizations that had coordinated these demonstrations, vowed that it would stay mobilized and encircle the capital until the laws are officially overturned.
“Nearly 700 farmers have died in this resistance,” SKM said, noting that farmers had died from the harsh cold weather and had been attacked by police authorities throughout their resistance. “The federal government’s obstinacy is to blame for these preventable killings, including the murders in Lakhimpur Kheri (when a car carrying BJP officials ploughed down four farmers and a mob attacked the driver and passengers, killing three. A journalist was killed as well),” the group continued. Another significant demand, according to the group, is a guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) for crops that should be well over the production cost.
Brinda Karat, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), hailed the repeal as a “historic triumph over a dictatorship that felt its massive majority in parliament could be used against the people of this nation.” “The farmers have taught the Modi administration a valuable lesson. Dictatorship does not function in India,” she added. The BJP rushed the three corporate-friendly farm bills through parliament in September 2020, with opposition parties alleging that they were denied the opportunity to debate them and that many of their microphones were shut off during a contentious “voice vote.”
The laws in question deregulated cross-state food sales, legalized private food hoarding and speculation, and eliminated pricing regulations, thereby marketizing the industry and jeopardizing the food security of hundreds of millions of Indians. The forthcoming elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have been highlighted as one factor for the Modi government’s decision to withdraw these laws amid the persistent pushback.