It is fantastic that so many were taken aback by the fact that the agitating farmers broke their word to the Delhi Police and, instead of sticking to the agreed route for their tractor march, broke all the barricades to prevent them from coming into the capital, tried to mow down police officers who blocked their way, and even managed to reach the Red Fort to unfurl a flag of their own. The farmers have always had a maximalist agenda and have made no secret of their double-speak.
On the one hand, the farmers spoke of wanting to repeal the new farm laws because, they argued, the Centre had no role in making laws on a subject the Constitution reserves for state governments. And yet, they wanted a legislative guarantee that the same Centre would keep buying grain from them at the MSP for all time to come! A Constitutional amendment in the 1950s, as it happens, allowed the Centre to make specific laws on state subjects, but one of the arguments the farmers and their supporters make is that.
The Centre cannot be interfering in matters reserved for the states. In which case, how were they expecting that the Centre will continue to spend Rs 2.5 lakh crore a year – indeed, increase it dramatically – on MSP-based procurement and another Rs 1 lakh crore or thereabouts on fertilizer subsidies? The benefits from this are cornered by a small section of farmers – like the ones in Punjab – it appears, never crossed the minds of the farmers or their supporters.
Indeed, while the agitation had the support of the Captain Amarinder Singh government, some of his supporters started saying several months ago that he had no control over the movement; indeed, they added, even the farmer leaders were not in control since more hardline farmers were driving the agenda. That is also why when the Narendra Modi government made the ill-advised offer to keep the farm laws in abeyance for 18 months while a committee that included farmers tried to address their concerns instead of accepting them with enthusiasm.
The farm unions said they would discuss it with their members Hardly surprising, then, that after some groups – presumably, they were the moderate face of the agitation – agreed on a route for the tractor march and decided that this would begin after the Republic Day parade was over, a more significant number of farmers broke the rules early on Tuesday. Once the violence was over, playing to their script, some unions said those indulging in violence were not their members. In contrast, others have blamed anti-social elements for hijacking the protest.