Farmers in protest: Learning from the past and creating history with a real definition of nationalism

The following excerpt is taken from Bhagat Singh’s “Letter to Young Political Workers” (The Bhagat Singh Reader, pp. 224-245), written on February 2, 1931:

The real revolutionary armies are in the villages and in factories, the peasantry and the labourers. But our bourgeois leaders do not and cannot dare to tackle them. The sleeping lion once awakened from its slumber shall become irresistible even after the achievement of what our leaders aim at. After his first experience with the Ahmedabad labourers in 1920 Mahatma Gandhi declared: “We must not tamper with the labourers. It is dangerous to make political use of the factory proletariat” (The Times, May 1921). Since then, they never dared to approach them. There remains the peasantry. The Bardoli resolution of 1922 clearly defines the horror the leaders felt when they saw the gigantic peasant class rising to shake off not only the domination of an alien nation but also the yoke of the landlords.

Anyway, we were discussing the forces on which you can depend for a revolution. But if you say that you will approach the peasants and labourers to enlist their active support, let me tell you that they are not going to be fooled by any sentimental talk. They ask you quite candidly: what are they going to gain by your revolution for which you demand their sacrifices, what difference does it make to them whether Lord Reading is the head of the Indian government or Sir Purshotamdas Thakordas (A Bombay Industrialist and Congress leader)? What difference for a peasant if Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru (A leading Advocate and rich Congress leader) replaces Lord Irwin! It is useless to appeal to his national sentiment. You can’t “use” him for your purpose; you shall have to mean seriously and to make him understand that the revolution is going to be his and for his good.

Cast aside the youthful dreams of a revolution within ten years and of Gandhi’s utopian promises of Swaraj in one Year. It requires neither the emotion nor the death, but the life of constant struggle, suffering and sacrifice. Crush your individuality first. Shake off the dreams of personal comfort. Then start to work. Inch by inch you shall have to proceed. It needs courage, perseverance and very strong determination. No difficulties and no hardships shall discourage you. No failure and betrayals shall dishearten you. No troubles imposed upon you shall snuff out the revolutionary will in you. Through the ordeal of sufferings and sacrifice you shall come out victorious. And these individual victories shall be the valuable assets of the revolution.

In a sense Gandhism with its counter-revolutionary creed of quietism makes a nearer approach to the revolutionary ideas. For it counts on mass action, though not for the masses alone. They have paved the way for the proletariat revolution by trying to harness them, however crudely and selfishly to its political programme. The Revolutionary must give to the angle of non- violence his due.

Let not the revolutionary be lashed round and round the vicious circle of aimless outrages and individual self-immolation. The inspiring ideal for all and sundry workers should not be that of dying for the cause but of living for the cause, and living usefully and worthily

The nationalists to be effective must harness the nation into action, into revolt. And the nation are not the loudspeakers of the Congress—it is the peasants and the labourers who formed more than 95 per cent of India. The nation will stir itself to action only on assurance of nationalization. i.e.… Freedom from slavery of Imperialist—capitalists.

The long quotations from Bhagat Singh are necessary to understand the present farmers’ struggle, begun more than five months ago in Punjab after three major agricultural ordinances—infamously known as “black laws”—were passed in June 2020. The purpose of the black laws is to further deregulate agriculture in India by weakening state price controls. In the aftermath of these ordinances, enacted in a dubious manner by parliament in September, protests took place for more than 40 days at Delhi borders. While at the national level there is a forum consisting of more than four hundred farmers organizations, at Punjab level, there are 30+ organizations in the movement. From where the farmers get such determined will to continue the struggle till victory can be comprehended somewhat from Bhagat Singh, but more from the history of earlier struggles in Punjab, as well as in other parts of India, from farmers’ as well as other traditions of anti-oppression and anti-colonial struggles. No wonder that many farmers, young and old, women and men, are not only seen holding Bhagat Singh pictures, but also reading books of and on Bhagat Singh. The libraries and bookstalls put up at protest sites carry numerous books on Bhagat Singh, in addition to books on Indian revolutionary movements, as well as on history and literature. Most are in Punjabi and Hindi, but a few are in English as well. There is langar—based on the Sikh concept and practice of free food in Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship and assembly) to each and every one—of free books also put up like those of free eatables and essentials, a new concept to create reading as a habit. Innumerable songs and videos sung and narrated by much known and completely unknown artists/commoners, from 5-year-old children to 90-year-old people, all indicate the farmers’ strong will to get the three laws related to agriculture stricken down, laws they consider Corporate-induced black laws meant to snatch their lands.

In its present form, the farmers’ movement form indicates a new, or rather real, kind of nationalism, generated during the Indian freedom struggle, but not fully realized through the half-hearted independence achieved through compromises by the mainstream Congress Party, which resulted in terrible massacres of nearly a million people and migration of nearly ten million people. Out of three streams of nationalism prevalent prior to the 1947 partition of the country, the rightwing religion-oriented nationalism won Pakistan under the leadership of the Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, considered the founder of Pakistan. A second stream, liberal nationalism, still infested with shades of religious fervor, won partitioned India under the leadership of the Congress Party, with the rightwing Hindu nationalism of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, founded in 1925) waiting in the wings to capture power, and, as in Pakistan, create Hindu Rashtra (A Hindu-dominated society). A third stream, revolutionary nationalism, propounded by Bhagat Singh-like Socialist revolutionaries did not succeed but it continued to influence Communist and Socialist parties—though not with as much clarity as Bhagat Singh and his comrades had shown in their times! Now, through the present farmers’ movement, the revolutionary nationalist stream of Bhagat Singh and their comrades has asserted itself again and in full form. The writings of Bhagat Singh are now available in abundance, in many Indian languages. This would have pleased but not surprised Bhagat Singh, as can be seen from the above quotation: “it is the peasants and the labourers who formed more than 95 per cent of India.” The nation will stir itself to action only on assurance of nationalization. i.e.… Freedom from slavery of Imperialist—capitalists.

The focus of the revolutionary nationalist stream always had been on the people, on peasants, farmers, industrial workers, agricultural workers. Members of the revolutionary stream had viewed the history of farmers’ movements in India through the prism of revolutionary nationalism. In the present farmers’ movement, posters, cartoons, and speeches draw allusions to the British East India Company, giving it a modern name of Ambani-Adani-Modi company (Modi, of course, is India’s Prime Minister, while Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani are both Indian billionaire businessmen). The East India Company occupied most of India after Indians lost the Plassey War in 1757 (Plassey, the Anglicized name for Palashi, was the site of the decisive battle, about 93 miles north of Calcutta). It ruled until a failed independence war in 1857, after which Britain ruled India directly until India gained its independence in 1947. Both during indirect British rule through the East India Company and direct British colonial domination, there was an unending stream of peasant/farmers struggle to protect their land rights.

Beginning from the 1783 Rangpur Dhinga peasant revolt, there were continuous farmer uprisings throughout the British colonial period, notably the Kol rebellion of 1832, the 1855 Sidho-Kanhu-led Santhal Adivasi revolt in present Jharkhand, repeated in 1899-1900 by the Birsa Munda-led Munda Ulgulan, the Titumir-led Nalkerberia revolt from 1782 to 1831, the Indigo revolt (known as the Neel Bidroh) during 1859-60, which inspired Dinanath Mitra to write his classic play in Bengali, Neel Darpan, and the Mappila rebellion in Malabar from 1840 to 1920. (Sidho, Kanhu, and Birsa Munda were either Adivasi or tribal activist leaders, and the Titumir were famous Indian freedom fighters).

In the twentieth century, there were again many farmers resistance movements; some need special mention. One was led by Ajit Singh, uncle of Bhagat Singh, in 1907; this was the Pagdi Sambhal Jatta movement in opposition to British-imposed land theft laws. Another was the 1920 Awadh farmers’ movement against oppressive landlords in northeast India. And just prior to independence, there were the Tebhaga movement in Bengal and the Telangana armed peasant resistance. Immediately after independence in 1948, the Mujara movement took place in the Pepsu area, led by Red Party (Lal Party, a communist party in Punjab) leaders like Teja Singh Sutantar, Dharam Singh Fakkar, and Jagir Singh Joga.

The farmers’ movements and the freedom struggle led by the Congress Party were mostly interlinked. While during the British colonial period, farmers’ movements were either against British anti-farmer laws or against landlord/feudal oppression, against landlords who were patronized by British masters. The Congress Party was always ambivalent in supporting farmers/peasants in their resistance, no doubt because the Party had many feudal landlords in its ranks. Mahatma Gandhi had led the Champaran Satyagrah (satyagrah is basically nonviolent resistance) of Bihar farmers in 1917, his first major political activity on the Indian scene after his return from South Africa. In 1920, there was Satyagrah in Kheda in Gujarat, and in 1926-27, Sardar Patel led the Bardoli Satyagrah, which was noted by Bhagat Singh in his writings. The Awadh peasant movement against feudal lords and British rulers spread to the Faiazabad/Ayodya, Rai Braille, and Partapgarh/Sultanpur districts of Uttar Pradesh. It was led by Baba Ramchand and, in some districts, by Madari Pasi as the Eka (Unity) movement. The Awadh farmers’ movement went along with the Gandhi-inspired non-cooperation movement of 1921, which was suddenly withdrawn after the February 5, 1922 burning of a police station in the town of Chauri Chaura.

In 1906-7, the Pagri Sambhal Jatta movement, led by the Bharat Mata Society and Mohabbane Watan, was formed by Ajit Singh, Ghasita Ram, Lal Chand Falak, Kishan Singh (father of Bhagat Singh), and others; it was active in the Lyallpur area, where British colonial rulers had burdened farmers with heavy taxes. After the farmers had developed that area with their hard labor, their lands were threatened with expropriation. Banke Dayal wrote his famous song, Pagdi Sambhal Jatta (“Protect your turban,” implying keep your dignity), which became the symbol and rallying cry of the movement as well. Lal Chand Falak was another poet of this movement. Farmers in the present movement are holding Ajit Singh and Pagdi Sambhal Jatta insignia and flags, as Ajit Singh 140th birth anniversary falls on 23 February 2021. Incidentally, Bhagat Singh’s 90th martyrdom anniversary also falls on 23 March this year. Ultimately, British rulers had to withdraw those black laws.

The 1919 Rowlett Act was again an example of the worst kind of black law, which allowed for indefinite detention as well as imprisonment without trial or judicial review. Mass protest forced the British rulers to withdraw this law, but only after massive repression, with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which Michael O’Dwyer (Lieutenant Governor of Punjab) and military officer Reginald Dyer became villains in the eyes of the world.

Some of the farmers’ movements during and after the British period were violent in nature, like Telangana and later Naxalbari (town in West Bengal, site of the 1967 revolt that gave rise to the Naxalite-Maoist peasant insurgency), but most of these were nonviolent, yet still met with violent state oppression. Many times, violence by farmers was a reaction to state violence, as Devdas Gandhi, son of Mahatma Gandhi himself, noted in his fact-finding report on the Chauri Chara violence by farmers or the Sayagrahis against which police in that area of Gorakhpur had committed untold atrocities on the peaceful Satyagrahis farmers.

The Congress Party did not have working people’s interests in focus while fighting for independence, but revolutionary groups, especially the Ghadar Party, the HSRA (Hindustan Socialist Republican Association) led by Bhagat Singh, and later revolutionary movements like the Chittagong revolt, Quit India, and the Navy revolt of 1946 kept the people’s interests close to their hearts along with nationalist feelings. As during the Modi regime, even federalism was/is under threat. The Ghadar Party in 1913 had devised a free India plan, based on the U.S. Federal System, a United States of India. If it had been followed, probably India would not have been partitioned in 1947.

As far as the present farmers’ movement is concerned, it has matured from the experiences of the past farmers’ movements of both the British and post-British periods. The massive gathering of more than two lakh (200,000) people on Delhi borders is unique in many respects, although farmer leader Mahinder Singh Tikait had gathered perhaps more people in Delhi in 1988 and succeeded in getting some of his demands accepted as well. But this movement has wider connotations. In fact, this movement is creating history in many respects.

Coalescing Struggles

While during the British period there was a nexus or unholy alliance of Colonial rulers with Indian feudal landlords, and the task of the freedom struggle should have been to liberate the Indian people from both the colonial as well as feudal yoke, which Bhagat Singh-led revolutionaries visualized. But the Congress Party had feudal lords and big industrialists as its part and parcel, so its leaders limited their goal literally to the transfer of power without any substantial change in the system built by British colonial rulers. It left aside socialist leaders like Netaji Subhas Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Narender Dev, Jai Prakash Narayan (JP), and Ram Manohar Lohia, who together formed the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) within the Congress Party and which included Communist leaders like EMS Namboodiripad and others as well. Jawaharlal Nehru had sympathized and even participated in the Awadh farmers’ struggle in 1920 and risked his life while visiting the site of the violence. Ironically, it was in December 1920 that Baba Ram Chandra had organized a massive gathering of farmers in Ayodhya, yet there was no celebration of the event a hundred years later in 2020, whereas groundbreaking for the Ram Temple took precedence over the farmers’ glorious legacy of struggle. But Jawaharlal Nehru never came out of the shadow of Mahatma Gandhi to assert and act upon his socialist views, unlike Netaji Subhas Bose, who did.

After independence, even with halfhearted land reforms, the landlord/feudal class ceased to exist (but not the feudal mindset, which became part of the political class as well a social norm). The largest land holding at present is perhaps limited to 10 hectares, but more than 86 percent of farmers have marginal and small lands operating less than two hectares. So, farmers en masse became victims of the corporate, capitalist class. This is why farmers turn up in such large numbers in any protest movement, and why even a small number of rich farmers also find common cause with their fellow poor farmers. Landless farm labor, largely Dalits, too have common interests with farmers. Although they were no more slaves of feudal lords, they became farm wage workers and their wages depend on the well-being of farmers themselves. Despite still facing social tensions like caste discrimination, with high caste communities in rural areas, Dalit farm workers have joined this historic movement as part of the larger struggle against crony capitalism, which would affect them even more in the long run.

From the Telangana and Naxalbari armed struggles, farmers perhaps have learned the lesson of peaceful resistance, as they cannot match the state’s machinery of violence. The example of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), the largest farmers’ organization in the present movement, has been one of consistently peaceful resistance throughout. But in its earlier avatar, the Wahikara Union in 1980s, with its aggressive postures, suffered much state repression leading to its demise. This time, by building the organization at ground level with equal participation of women and also building a sisterly mass organization of farm workers in the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, it is playing a very significant role in making farmers assert their rights and dignity. Other farmers’ organizations, with names like Krantikari (Revolutionary), are equally peaceful and nonviolent in their participation.

In fact, the present farmers’ mass movement is comparable to Mahatma Gandhi’s noncooperation movement of 1921, which included the Awadh farmers’ movement as well, the 1930 Dandi Salt March of Mahatma Gandhi, which fought for farmers right to make salt, and the 1942 Quit India mass movement. The present movement has appropriated the experiences of all past nationalist mass movements and has matured it, making it more inclusive and class-oriented.

Political Fallout

The political fallout of the present farmers’ movement is spectacular and hard to miss. For the first time in almost seven years of Modi’s autocratic rule, the government has had to beg for talks, on the terms of the farmers, who refused and boycotted talks with officials and raised it to the level of national ministers and politics. The Modi government has refused even to talk to parliamentary political parties in the last seven years; such is its arrogance, that even Parliament has been reduced to the show business of Modi/Shah (Amit Shah is Minister of Home Affairs) mockery. Members of Shaheen Bagh, the anti-CAA (anti-Muslim citizenship law) peaceful movement of women activists, were never given an ear by this power-hungry government. But the farmers’ protest brought this same government to its knees to beg for talks. Here again, however, mischievous political games are being played to tire out the movement without conceding their genuine demands. Yet, one more political fallout is clear in Punjab and to some extent in Haryana. The RSS/BJP (acronyms, respectively of the rightwing, Hindu nationalist organization formed in 1925 and the political party now in power) has become a total outcaste and is now perceived as the enemy of the whole people, not just farmers.

In fact, RSS/BJP is now seen as a form of internal colonial rule linked with crony corporate capitalists like Ambani and Adani, with whom Prime Minister Modi has personal relations. Present BJP-initiated laws are now seen as the license for crony corporate capitalist to snatch the lands of poor farmers to expand their crony empire!

Farmers don’t trust the main political parties like Congress, Akali Dal, and the Aam Admi Party (AAP). These have to show their solidarity with farmers at least on paper, but farmers have rightly refused to let the political parties to come on their stage and allowed them only to come as ordinary people without their flags. By contrast, the whole Punjab and Haryana people—Hindus , Sikhs, Muslims, traders, employees, professionals/writers/intellectuals/artists—stand in solidarity with farmers. It is the biggest political setback for RSS/BJP and could become a trend for other states in times to come. Punjab, with Bhagat Singh and the Ghadar Party spirit, may again lead the country to liberation from internal colonial/crony corporate powers and thus wash away the recent black scars its sectarian Khalistani (Sikh separatist movement) and youth drug addiction has left on its body politic. The way the farmers’ movement has linked itself not only to the freedom struggle, but also to the cultural past of symbols representing the fight against oppression—building halls in the names of Sufi saints, Baba Banda Bahadur, Bhagat Singh, Ashfaqualla, Bibi Gulab Kaur (Revolutionary heroes of the past), etc.—celebrating Kisan Azad Diwas (National Farmers Day) in honor of anti-British nationalist Netaji Subhas Bose birthday on 23rd January, and so forth indicates that the positive and progressive spirit of real nationalism is back in the saddle and that it will fight the fake and fascist communal nationalism spread by RSS/BJP.

Historical Echoes

A few slogans during this movement are referential to earlier historic movements. The slogan of the 1932 Chittagong revolutionary movement was “Do and Die,” while the Mahatma Gandhi-led 1942 slogan was Also “Do or Die.” The present farmers’ movement has the slogan “Jittange ya Marange (Victory or Death)”. After a month and a half of sitting in protest at the Delhi border and suffering nature’s fury, as well as government atrocities and stone heartedness, they have again revived the spirit of suffering and sacrifice, essential for any historic movement, which has been missing even among communist cadres for some time due to living in a comfort zone. Th farmers’s movement is again likely to prove Bhagat Singh true. As we noted above, he said, “Through the ordeal of sufferings and sacrifice you shall come out victorious.” In fact, anywhere in the world, selfless suffering and sacrifices do move people, and this is happening in India right now. Religious groups, social groups, unconcerned with farmers’ agitation, but now seeing their suffering, are coming in large numbers from far away, even from abroad, to help the farmers struggle!

Not surprisingly, the support to farmers has also come from West Punjab in Pakistan, and their songs of solidarity are being played on social media, which has also shown that the partition of Punjab or India was based on fake religious nationalism.

New Lessons

The movement has learned new ways to fight the propaganda machine of the BJP and its trolling army generating and spreading fake news. A younger generation of peasantry is quite well-versed in internet use and social media and is hitting back at Amit Malviya’s (BJP IT head) fake news factory on twitter and other social media by creating parallel twitter and other media platforms and bringing out home journals like Trolley Times in Punjabi and English. As the farmers have come prepared for a long haul, even for months, new forms of protest get created, some spontaneously and others consciously. Songs, videos, film shows, plays, lectures from stages, children’s programs, all forms of social life have become normal at dharna site (dharna is the practice of exacting justice or compliance with a just demand by sitting and fasting at the doorstep of an offender until death or until the demand is granted). As whole families have come to protest, children are studying for their school courses online, playing and singing as well, so much so that five- and seven-year-old boys and girls are delivering lectures on stages! Doctors, on their own, have set up a voluntary campus at the site to take care of the health needs of farmers, in chilling weather. With NRIs (Non-Resident Indian) sending even eatables like almonds from abroad, which looks fabulous, and with free distribution of all essentials, such as food, clothes, and cleaning kits, has made this protest unique in the whole world and even a role model for future struggles internationally! A counterculture of liberation movements has to be created like this one at Delhi borders!

Incidentally, the government and Godi (Hindi term recently created, literally meaning lapdog media, that is, those that do the government’s bidding) media try to defame the farmers by calling them Khalistanis, Maoists, or Tukde Tukde Gangs (pejorative term indicating support for terrorists, sedition, and the like. It has been used since 2016 to describe student resistance at Jawaharlal Nehru University [JNU]. It literally means “breakers of the country”.) But should it not be pointed out to them that from 1947 till 2020, all governments have been compelling armed political movement activists to surrender and join the mainstream and participate in peaceful movements, even for radical change. And for argument’s sake, if some of farmers’ organizations are Maoists or Khalistanis, how and why should their participating in peaceful resistance be questioned or defamed? Even the Supreme Court has ruled that no idea can be cause for state action unless it is accompanied by action, meaning that unless a social group exhorts people to commit violence or themselves start violence, there can be no state force used on them legally. Though the Supreme Court has taken no interest in saving farmers from extreme oppression as it did not save the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers sufferings during Covid-19-affected migration, yet during then present farmers’ movement, the Supreme Court has especially observed that the government must not use force against peaceful farmers. And if a farmer’s organization on Human Rights Day remembered and demanded the release of Human Rights activists and intellectuals like Anand Teltumabade (jailed Indian scholar and civil rights activist) and Sudha Bhardwaj (jailed trade unionist, lawyer, and activist), how can this be objected too or defamed? Even the British colonial regime did not object to Bhagat Singh’s release demand made by massive numbers of people in those days. Is the present desi (Hindi term for indigenous/local as against videshi-foreign) government more oppressive than even the British colonial government? Its approach and actions suggest so.


Unity among masses with common interests has been achieved for the first time among such a high number of farmers organizations. This is like the Eka (Unity) peasant movement of the early 1920s. This is the biggest strength of this movement. This sense of unity has come through the transparency and control over leadership of common but awakened and conscious masses/farmers, which make leaders take all decisions democratically and not over the heads of the people. Perhaps this single factor may lead to the victory of this movement. In fact, through this unity, farmers’ organizations have not only strengthened themselves; they have also helped defeat many sectarian movements and trends. A bonhomie has developed between Punjab and Haryana farmers, with frictions over river waters relegated to the background. Hopefully, this can help resolve this dispute amicably in the future. In the same way, the sectarian trends of Khalistani or Hindutva have been dumped into a dustbin by this unity. At ground level, this is also a mirror and creative advice to left movements in India and elsewhere, how to build mass unity, as many of farmers’ organizations have left the radical/non parliamentary left as well as parliamentary left. This is a most progressive movement in this sense. Unity has been developed between so called high caste Jats and Dalits as well. People of all castes and religions are cooking and eating together, defeating the nefarious designs of Brahmanical Manuvadi (Manu was a Hindu law maker who created caste divisions in Hinduism, still followed by Hindutva. Dr. Ambedkar had burned the copy of Manusmriti, the laws of Manu in 1927, which defined Brahmins as the dominant and hegemonic caste) division promoted by the Modi government. The equality between men and women has also been the shining part of this movement. Men are doing services like cooking and cleaning, while women are addressing supporters from stages. Men and women are sharing all work without the gender divisions practiced inside the homes.

Present as History

If British colonial rulers and feudal lords were allies in the exploitation of the masses, in present circumstances the alliance is between crony corporate capitalists with the RSS-patronized ModiShah BJP government. Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries had realized that fighting internal colonialism is more difficult than fighting external colonialism. In fact, the sense of nationalism during the British period had all of its fault line. For example, Dalits were not part of the so-called nationalist movement of that time. The interests of farmers and workers were not on the agenda of that nationalist movement. All the icons like B.R. Ambedkar (noted jurist, economist, politician, and social reformer, also a Dalit), Periyar (social activist and founder of the Self-Respect Movement), Jyotirao Phule, and Savitribai Phule (these last two, husband and wife, were anti-caste activists, with Savitri being the “mother” of Indian feminism and women’s education) were not even heard in those days in the nationalist movement. Whereas the present socio-political-economic-cultural movements have these and other icons like Baba Banda Bahadur and Bhagat Singh as the true icons of nationalism. So now nationalism in its true sense means liberating farmers, farm laborers, workers, Dalits, Adivasis (indigenous peoples), and Minorities from the oppression and exploitation of crony capitalists in collaboration with the communal fascism of the RSS/BJP led by ModiShah.

So the present farmers’ movement is creating history by bringing the real sense of Indian Nationalism in center focus of the Indian nation.

International Impact

The farmers’ movement of India is going to have an international impact in years to come, as it may become torch bearer of fight against neoliberal crony corporate-controlled regimes in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, even in the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and America. Already, many such movements of students, trade unions, and even farmers are arising and acting in many countries of Latin America, but the extent, tenacity, and length, with clear goal to be achieved, of the Indian farmers’ movement may give rise to stronger anti-imperial, anti-corporate movements, putting Rosa Luxemburg’s phrase into center focus: Socialism or Barbarism. As the neoliberal economic order can only lead to Barbarism, which has become much clearer during Covid-19, and its only antidote is Socialism, it may give new impetus to the rise of socialist movements world over.


Will it succeed? This is not yet certain. Perhaps a new Dyer is waiting in the wings to crush this true nationalism. Perhaps the Gandhian and Sikh Gurus’ strategy of peaceful resistance, as suggested by Bhagat Singh, quoted above, can lead to the present internal colonial government yielding, as the external British colonial government yielded many times during their rule. Peaceful resistance in Punjab is much older than Gandhian nonviolence. Sikh Gurus (masters of the Sikh religion, who lived from 1469 until 1708, when the Guruship was passed on permanently to the holy Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib) had sacrificed their lives, like fifth Guru Arjun Dev dying by being burnt on a hot plate during Moghul emperor Jahangir’s time and ninth Guru Teg Bahadur sacrificing his life for protecting people from Aurungzeb (Mughal emperor of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries) atrocities. Then in the twentieth century, there were three Morchas (anti-government protests) of Sikhs to liberate Gurdwaras (Sikh places of assembly and worship): the Jaitu Morcha, in which even Jawaharlal Nehru participated and suffered the worst jail of his life in Nabha; and the the Guru Ka Bagh Morcha and Nankana Sahib Morcha. All took place between 1920 and 1925. Mahatma Gandhi had to praise the Sikhs exemplary peaceful conduct amid brutal atrocities at the hands of colonial police, many dying in the process as is happening on Delhi borders now.

However, internal colonialism especially in the form of communal fascism can certainly be more dangerous, as Hitler and Mussolini, in Germany and Italy, had been in the past, implementing fascism clothed in the garb of nationalism!

The way attacks on Dalits, minorities, educational institutions, and dissenting writers/intellectuals have taken place since 2014 shows that the present internal colonial government can be more cruel than the foreign colonial government, and this factor cannot be ruled out as continuing now and in the future. During demonetization, the cruel face of this government emerged and especially during Covid-19, in the way poor migrant workers have been treated, Parliament relegated to be of no consequence, and over the last few months farmers have been treated, reminding us of how when Rome was burning, Nero was playing the lyre. Hashtags have come up on twitter saying #FarmersDyingModiEnjoying, with thousands of such tweets. The way utter insensitivity and cruelty have been shown in biting cold and rains, when 90-year-olds to toddlers of a few months, men, and women have been dying, some even committing suicide. Sixty plus people have died at the Delhi border farmer protests in 40 days, and 200+ died in the earlier movement at Punjab in five months.

Whatever may be the outcome of this great historic movement, Indian society will not be the same again.