On the Farmers’ Protests

— The NotA Collective

The fascist BJP government has finally given in and agreed to repeal the three anti-people farm laws.1 We at NotA bow our heads in admiration to all the farmers, agricultural labourers, and other activists who have come together over the past year to keep this historic protest going and deal the first major defeat to the BJP since 2014. We hope that this victory2 gives the broader anti-fascist movement (including not only the farmers’ protests but also other movements like the anti-CAA protests, migrant workers protests and the adviasis’ anti-mining protests) in the country even more energy and leads to the downfall of both Hindu fascism and the anti-people “development” agenda it is supporting. The war is far from over, but this battle has been won.

We also would like to take this moment to condemn academia for its refusal to play a role in this victory, and for agreeing to this fascist takeover of our country. We would like to condemn economists like Ashok Gulati, Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia for pushing a fake development agenda (since the early 90s) designed to take the blood and sweat of the Indian worker and make it into more profits for Indian and international capitalists. We condemn each and every one of the 866 academics who signed a petition in support of the farm laws.3 We condemn the refusal of other academics to speak up against these fascist anti-people laws — a petition in support of the farmers got less than half as many signatures.4

We hope that, going forward, academia is able to join this anti-fascist movement. We would like to remind every student and researcher reading this that it is in our interest to join such a movement. The anti-people development agenda is not limited to just destroying the livelihoods of farmers, it affects people around the country in all walks of life. The labour codes are set to destroy the lives of the working class broadly. The colonisation of Kashmir has been taken to a new level of brutality.5 And, though not as important, academia is not being spared.

Let us list some of the ways in which academia has suffered under this agenda:

  1. Public education is being defunded and more and more private colleges are being set up.6 Private colleges are much more expensive, so this is excluding larger and larger sections of our population from accessing higher education.
  2. Public education is also getting more expensive, as funding dries up.7
  3. NEP 2020 is pushing for a more pro-corporate agenda for our education.8 Poorer students are being pushed away from general education and towards vocational education.
  4. There is an ongoing push towards online education, in a country where most of the population doesn’t have personal computers or stable internet access. This again excludes most of the population from education. And protests against this like the Reopen Delhi University hunger strike9 have been completely ignored.
  5. Research funding is being pushed towards a model of appealing to private capitalists for funding for individual projects, which makes science less free and the lives of scientists more precarious.10
  6. The government is interfering more and more directly in our universities to push them towards a communal agenda and crush pro-worker, anti-Hindutva dissent. Academics like Anand Teltumbde and students like Sarfoora Zagar have been jailed for flimsy reasons. The publishing of Varavara Rao’s book was stopped, simply because he’s a pro-people activist.
  7. Research scholars’ stipends and professors’ salaries are being delayed for months and years, in a way eerily similar to how NREGA salaries are being delayed.

This is not even close to a complete list. But reading this should make it clear that there is no good reason for academics not to fight against this destruction of our country. Unless you’re happy that academia is going to become even more strongly dominated by dwijas and rich people. Unless you’re happy that more and more people will need to take out loans just to go to college. Unless you’re happy that younger members of academia will live ever more precarious lives.

We call on every member of academia who stands against these harmful trends to break out of their shells and start working in service of the movement fighting against the destruction of our country.

  1. If you’re unfamiliar with how destructive these laws would have been, check out Bal, H. S. (2021). Mandi, Market and Modi. The Caravan Magazine. https://caravanmagazine.in/essay/farm-laws-adani-reliance and Ramdas, S. R. (2021, April 14). India’s Deregulated Dairy Sector: Signposts the Future of Our Food. The India Forum. https://www.theindiaforum.in/article/india-s-deregulated-dairy-sector-signposts-future-our-food ↩︎

  2. We should remember here that this movement is not without its drawbacks. The farmers’ protests were mostly led by landlords and peasants from the Jat and privileged shudra castes. These same people are also the oppressors of (mostly Dalit) agricultural labourers. This contradiction has been constantly playing out in both violent and non-violent ways through the last year. In particular, we should mention the brutal murder of Lakhbir Singh at Singhu border for allegedly violating some caste norms. There have also been many tensions between Hindus and Muslims, and between men and women. These issues deserve more discussion. Here, all we need to say is that we should not forget the existence of these problems in our support for the movement; and we should also remember that the existence of these problems doesn’t make it a reactionary movement. ↩︎

  3. T. (2021, January 2). 866 academics, including 7 VCs, back new farm laws. The Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/866-academics-including-7-vcs-back-new-farm-laws/articleshow/80067167.cms ↩︎

  4. Correspondent, S. (2021, February 3). Centre should abandon farm reform laws, say academicians in statement. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-should-abandon-farm-reform-laws-say-academicians-in-statement/article33737379.ece ↩︎

  5. The brutality was increased already in the early days of the Modi government, see Aaron, S. (2017, May 26). The Modi government has a new model for managing Kashmir. Hindustan Times. https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/the-modi-government-has-a-new-model-for-managing-kashmir/story-QePvw4pvfx94zFGZAZrB3M.html. Since then, the government has also removed article 370 from the constitution, further subjugating Kashmir to the country. ↩︎

  6. COLLECTIVE, (2021, June 18). They Did Not Know We Were Grass. Notes on the Academy. https://notacademy.in/2021/06/18/they-did-not-know-we-were-grass/ ↩︎

  7. The NotA Collective. (2021, March 20). Higher Education: A Luxury? Notes on the Academy. https://notacademy.in/2021/03/09/higher-education-a-luxury/ ↩︎

  8. COLLECTIVE. (2020). National Exclusion Policy. Google Docs. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QEEp2e0yyIZrWgw-A5cMCCS8WRTiuCb2/view ↩︎

  9. Ghosh, S. (2021, October 26). Students on a 48-hour hunger strike as they urge DU to resume offline classes. The Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/students-on-a-48-hour-hunger-strike-as-they-urge-du-to-resume-offline-classes/articleshow/87266077.cms ↩︎

  10. Peri, D. K. V. (2016, April 2). Govt. tells labs: fund research by yourself. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/govt-tells-labs-fund-research-by-yourself/article7811265.ece ↩︎

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