Amaan Bali: How The Panth Has Been Impacted By One Year Of The Farmers' Protest
Guru Sahib’s Prakash and Nishan Sahib at the protest sites are not mere symbols of religion but a testament to how this battle is fought on the lines of Dharm and truth
November 26, 2021 | 4 min. read | Opinion
The Farmers’ Protest has completed one year at the borders of Delhi and comes on the heels of Modi’s announcement to repeal the three farm laws. Places like Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur have become household names across Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.
One of the largest and the longest protests in human history is built upon a Sikhi-inspired ‘fight against injustice’. Sikhi in many ways was the powerhouse that propelled the people towards Delhi. From mowing down barricades to dismantling all anti-farmer propaganda that the state threw, Sikhi acted as both a shield and sword for the movement.
Guru Sahib’s Prakash and Nishan Sahib at the protest sites are not mere symbols of religion but a testament to how this battle is fought on the lines of Dharm and truth.
Understanding the impact of the Farmers’ Protest on the Panth is both vital and critical at this point.
The Indian media houses in particular shy away from discussions revolving around Sikhi and farmers in the same breath. There are political aspirations behind that as well as the larger picture of undermining Sikh or Panthic unity.
Here is how the Farmers’ Protest helped Sikhs and a people’s psyche.
Closing the Differences Between Sikhs in India and the Diaspora
Sikhs in India have always been a state target, where they have to prove their patriotism and nationalism to secure better lives. It is also true that even after sacrificing their lives for India, Sikhs were not treated right by the same country. We have examples of how serving army men were butchered in 1984 as well as recent examples concerning army veterans being locked behind bars for participating in the Farmers’ Protest.
Indian Sikhs have often been portrayed as a group that is happy with the status quo, all the while a demonization of the Sikh struggle is carried out by the state using pawns and disinformation campaigns. There has been a consistent effort to wedge Sikhs in the diaspora, often portrayed as out-of-touch “extremists”, and those in Punjab and across India.
However, a lot of that has changed with the Farmers’ Protest which has awakened a large portion of Sikhs in India to the reality that the state is not above the Panth. The Farmers’ Protest united Sikh activists from across the globe to talk about one subject - Punjab and its relation with Delhi.
The narrowing down of differences and the building of new bridges between Sikhs and Punjabis around the world has annoyed the state and its agencies, proven in part by how many OCI cardholders and others were revoked and banned from entry on the grounds of participating in the agitation.
More than Agriculture
Many activists like Simranjit Singh Mann, Deep Sidhu, and Lakha Sidhana have stressed and hoped that the Farmers’ Protest would trigger a spillover effect and move long-standing issues of Punjab which political parties have ignored. To an extent, the Farmers’ Protest did bring more focus to concerns like the SYL, Punjabi language, and Chandigarh.
The disillusionment of peasantry forced political parties of Punjab to rethink their long-held positions and strategies. For example, many parties had to re-examine their stance on the sacrilege of Guru Garanth Sahib and pending justice.
One of the most public impacts of Farmers’ Protest in Panthic spaces was a protest against the demolition of a bunga discovered near the Akal Takht. SGPC, which has hardly stepped back on marbling buildings, had to backtrack and give up on their planned renovations.
It is important to mention here that many farmers who gave up their lives were not landowners. Even one of the prominent hashtags for the movement, #KisanMajdoorEktaZindabaad, emphasized the united front in fighting an issue impacting everyone in the agricultural sector.
Activists like Nodeep Kaur, after being arrested and tortured, have become a face of the agitation and have made concerns around labour rights and Dalit rights a big part of the dialogue. The next step is to completely dismantle caste differences in society, as Sikhi asks of us.
Strengthening of Gurdwaras and Decline in Apostasy
Gurdwaras were and are the powerhouses of the Farmers’ Protest. From announcements through Gurdwara speakers calling on the people of Punjab to join Jathas heading to Delhi to the logistical organization of langars to support during the harvest season, Gurdwaras have recentered themselves in local communities in a way that we have not experienced in some time.
The Amrit Sanchar programs saw a rapid rise over the past year with many people taking the Pahul. Sanchar programs took place not just on the borders of Delhi but in the main heartland of Punjab as well. The Sikh resilience, and influence on the Farmers’ Protest, have drawn and re-drawn many people towards Sikhi.
Dissent is Right
The problems of agriculture do not exist in isolation when it comes to Punjab. It is clear to the vast majority of Sikhs that there have been grave injustices done to them and Punjab over decades and that there are many unfulfilled promises which will keep evolving and shaping the agitation moving forward.
Many had spoken about how dissent in India was at its lowest across the country. The farmers not only took on the state and its wrath with full force but also showed that the right to dissent has to be won and enforced by the people.
Amaan Bali is born and raised in Kashmir. He is an entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book, “Growing up on the right side of Kashmir History”. You can find him on Twitter at @amaanbali.
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