Bold and Clear
Updated: Feb 12, 2021
Every war is not won with weapons. Every trench is not built for wars. There are times when societies build these with their hearts more than hands. There are times when war happens at a frequency that precludes weaponry and violence. Sometimes tears of the long suffering do not remain just tears but become the all and all of pride, empathy, unity, and life itself. Rakesh Takait's tears gave a new strength to the farmers' movement that seemed to be drifting in doubt. They brought in a new place to the revolution. Takait's people-in fact all the people associated with the protest-came as a refreshing whiff but also as the face of solidarity.
The farmers' faces will remain embedded in history. Images that have become metonyms for the protest show us many things. They expose the atrocities of the government, as much as they show the principles behind the protest. Most of all, however, they become food for thought. When they begin to represent an ideology, they become a part of culture itself. These are the images that people attach to sentiments that can even be beyond their immediate context. Images of Che Guevara or Jim Morrison, for example, have become synonymous with revolution. There is a certain wild element in these. They reflect a certain wilderness of thought; wilderness both because these figures were marginalized by the authors of politics, but also because these figures refused to be cultured and cultivated in the dominant discourse.
The word cultured itself derives from the culturing of plants and animals in artificial environments or through cultivation. Humans at some point in history, long ago, must have realized that they needed to cultivate not just crops but societies. Identity has always been linked to survival so establishing identities became the all in all of existence. It is associated with everything we do. Identity and survival become interchangeable entities. Paradoxically, when identities are threatened, people challenge the very culture that proposed to uphold these.
In the case of the events that led to the farmers' revolution in India, the political scenario that has become the culture of the nation, and the legal machinery have colluded in their attempts to erase not just a culture but an entire economic group. Having said that, I want to point towards the kind of lives that farmers have. Farmers, even the small land-holders have a certain autonomy. They are the kings of their lands and are self reliant. Exceptions to these are the farmers across India who are in deep debt. It must be pointed out, however, that several of them have a certain philanthropy. The farmers have certain cultural values, a way of life, and a pride of place that are now under threat. It is not just an economic annihilation that they face, but also a purging of culture and an attack on their very identity. In short, everything is at stake.
This uprising that has remained peaceful for these two months is a rightful step towards democracy. It is unveiling the rotten parts of the system. At the same time it is also exposing and bringing to view the kind of open-heartedness that subsumes different social groups in India. This is not intended as a generalization. The faces we see at the Delhi border are faces of people of all sorts, all economic classes, religions, castes, ages, occupations, and genders. They keep on proving that despite their differences and economic challenges, they are ready to give it their all. The rich and the poor are giving what they can to the protest. Be it women, men or the LGBTQ community they have united in their efforts and kept their differences at bay. People of all ages, the children and the old included, are all alike in their enthusiasm.
Flags have taken new meanings. Every tractor with a tri-colour hoisted on it, reverberates with an aura of nationalism. It is a pity that they are being labelled as terrorists and legal offenders. The tri-colour waving in the wind as they march on, is a plea for place in the national scheme of things, that has been falling flat on deaf ears. The prime minister has not spoken and has a cold stance on the farmers' protest. This silence of Modi, despite the voice of revolution resounding all over the world shows the ultimate stance of power over the subaltern. Thanks to Modi's cool and aloofness, the revolution is growing by the day and is strengthening by and by. The way the farmers are writing their narrative, and Modi's silence in the face of it makes one think of Modi's subaltern position in the face of large corporations. Modi is playing the doll in a puppet show hosted by the capitalist corporations. Having said that, however, the politics of aloofness does not seem to be working for him at all. It shows his weakness, even though he intends it as a show of strength.
There are times when the movement will seem to be a tough road to tread, when it will seem to fall apart, but we must remember to live in solidarity and strength, to keep reinventing the movement, to seek answers within us, to remember atrocities but also derive inspiration from our histories and pasts, to raise our voices against the din of oppression, and to write our narrative, bold and clear.