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Politics and farmer protests

Former Aam Aadmi Party leader Yogendra Yadav was arrested on Tuesday by the Delhi police for holding protests without permission. The talking point of the event, however, was the rash and high-handed manner in which the Delhi police broke up a peaceful protest. Yadav and many of his fellow activists from the farmer rights group Swaraj Abhiyan held protests from Sunday all the way to the wee hours of Tuesday morning, demanding adequate compensation for farmers affected by the land bill as well as those hit by crop loss. Despite the claims of Yadav and his fellow activists, the Delhi police have vehemently denied that the protesters were manhandled, dragged and hit while the protests were being broken up. 

The protests, according to the police, were only scheduled for Sunday and Monday. Yadav had earlier written a letter to the Delhi police, asking for permission to continue his protest till Friday, the eve of Independence Day. Permission, though, was denied. Moreover, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan also claimed that he rushed to the police station on hearing about Yadav’s detention but was stopped from meeting him. This is not the first time that the Delhi police has been accused of high-handedness while dealing with peaceful protests. The violence and arrogance displayed by the Delhi police against peaceful protesters demanding action against vandalism in Delhi churches earlier this year was there for all to see.

Despite the ugly fallout between the Aam Aadmi Party and Yogendra Yadav, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal lent his support to the protest and condemned the rash acts committed by the Delhi police. However, visuals on news channels showed supporters of Yadav shouting slogans of “<g data-gr-id="33">wapas</g> <g data-gr-id="34">jao</g>” (go back) against AAP leader Sanjay Singh, who had come to meet them and lend his party’s support to the cause. This is most unfortunate. Despite personal differences between Yadav and Kejriwal, the former’s supporters should have shown restraint and accepted support from the party. The agitation, besides demanding adequate compensation for farmers, also sought the installation of a farmers’ memorial instead of the Delhi Race Course. Issues of such significance must not be subservient to personal differences between leaders. Moreover, taking support from a political party, despite differences, for what is essentially a political cause, is something Yadav and his supporters must not shy away from. 

The agitation and the symbolism used behind the agitation do hold great significance. According to a document issued by members of the Swaraj Abhiyan before the protest, “Jai Kisan Andolan has already identified Race Course in Delhi as a symbol of historic wrong done to the farmers in the name of land acquisition for ‘Public Purpose’. The Delhi Race Club, situated right in front of the PM’s house is a den of gambling & betting for profiteering in the name of horse racing, that too under illegal occupation of prime government land when its lease has expired”. Since Independence, every government has claimed solidarity with farmers. It is high time they acted upon their claims, as Independence Day dawns upon us.
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