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OPINION: Modi must show statesmanship on farmers' protests

Justice Katju warns the farmers' agitation has now reached alarming heights

modi speech varanasi pti (File) PM Narendra Modi speaking at an event in Varanasi | PTI

Respected Modiji,

The talks between the farmers' representatives and the Central government ministers have so far been inconclusive, and the next talks have been scheduled for December 5 (Saturday).

While the Narendra Modi government seemed inclined to consider some modifications to the three contentious farm laws, the farmers appear immovable and obdurate in their demand that all the three legislations that they object to must be repealed.

The farmers' agitation has now reached alarming heights, and now everything turns on you, since it is you alone who can resolve this impasse.

Respectfully, I wish to appeal to you to accept this via media (which I had suggested earlier): The three laws to which the farmers are objecting may remain, but they will not be enforced till further negotiations in the future with the farmers' organisations, after which some mutually acceptable formula is reached, and if agreed upon by the parties, some amendments to these laws are made.

This should be announced by you immediately. By not repealing these laws immediately, it will avoid loss of face for your government, and by not enforcing them, it will also be a partial success for the agitating farmers. Thus, it will be a partial success for both sides.

If this announcement is not done, I fear the imminent consequences and scenario will be something like this:

  1. The agitating farmers, who seem adamant on continuing their struggle, will block all roads leading to Delhi (some are already blocked), causing immense hardship and suffering to the people of Delhi and elsewhere.

  2. The government, naturally, cannot and will not tolerate this situation for long and will then order the police to disperse the agitators by force. Since the agitators will not voluntarily disperse, they will be fired upon and/or lathi-charged by the police, likely causing huge loss of life and injuries, as happened on Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg in January 1905 when Czarist troops fired on protesters, or as in Vendemiarie in Paris in October 1795 when Napoleon's troops fired a 'whiff of grapeshot' on a mob.

  3. If this happens—and it seems inevitable if the via media I have suggested is not adopted—huge agitations will begin in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, disrupting normal life of the people, and there will be repercussions in other states too where many people will hold massive demonstrations in support of the farmers.

  4. The result of all this will be that the whole country will be engulfed in disorder and chaos. The economy is already in a bad shape, and will be further plunged downwards, causing immense suffering, tribulation and misery to the people. This will also give further encouragement to China, which is already breathing down our neck, to commit further aggression (as indeed suggested by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in his recent talks with the Union home minister).

In this situation, I appeal to you on behalf of the Indian people to rise to the occasion and show statesmanship, as you have often done in the past and make the aforementioned announcement. I fear the worst and a national calamity as the alternative.

Justice Markandey Katju retired from the Supreme Court in 2011

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of THE WEEK

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