Dear farmer brothers and sisters,
I write this letter to you with a lot of pride as well as anxiety on your agitation against the three Farm Laws. I am proud that you all have stood up against injustice on your lot when all other sections of the society have mostly shown disinterest in speaking their mind honestly about their plight. But I am also a bit perturbed because there have been occasions recently when the agitation has turned violent and there is a high risk of it getting derailed.
Let me at the onset tell you that I have always recognised myself a farmer and have on multiple occasions mentioned it on records as well. When I was facing a case of treason in 1922, I introduced myself as a farmer and weaver in front of a special court in Ahmedabad. If you read the manifesto of Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad you will again see my profession mentioned as the same. I believe that the countryside of our nation is the Kalpavriksha, the wish-fulfilling divine tree. Our country’s vision for a better future should not be towards Delhi but it must be towards the countryside.
You all are synonymous with India. Non-violence and fearlessness are the basic traits of the nature of a farmer and always remember that Satyagraha is the basic weapon against exploitation and oppression. Many believed that India meant a few kings, but in my opinion, India means millions of farmers on whom rests these kings and everyone’s existence. Farmers have never been and will not be intimidated by anyone’s power. You all may not know how to wield a sword but the quality you have is that you do not fear facing anyone sword either, because you are not scared even of death.
Today our government may doubt the ability and intelligence of the farmers. Many interlocutors who discuss the issues with you and the media will try to portray you as unintelligent, but I know you are among the few independent, awakened and enlightened citizens. Behind your unfathomable outer form there is a deep lake of spiritual experience and knowledge. An age-old culture is hidden behind the outer covering of sloppiness in the Indian peasantry. If only we remove this outer covering, remove the long-term poverty and illiteracy, then we will get a beautiful sample of a cultured, civilized, free and fearless citizen.
Exploitation of you all is the most serious problem in the country today. When I see lavish stately buildings, I think of all the money looted from farmers by one way or the other. As long as we keep looting our farmers or let others loot them, our longing for self-government cannot be considered as true. I have always advised you to be oriented towards cooperatives to avoid exploitation at the hands of landlords and capitalists. Sadly today, landless farmers and agricultural laborers are out of the discussion and everyone is in a hurry to dismiss cooperatives.
I am pained by the continued deaf ears the government has rendered to you for the last one year. If Indian society is to make real progress on a peaceful path, then the bourgeoisie must accept that a farmer is one among them and you all are not any better than the poor only because of the wrong policies of the government.
A lot of problems that you face today are because the peasants could not get the central role in power after independence as I had wished. But what is more worrying is that today the participation of the peasants in power is progressively further decreasing. To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is akin to forgetting ourselves.
I fear that neglect of villages will forcibly push farmers towards urban factories by reducing them to mere laborers. At the same time, I also know that within the ruling class there are many who feel this is an essential part of the modern development process. I must tell you here what I have said on many occasions, India resides not in its handful of cities but in its lakhs of villages.
I understand that like the British rulers, today’s powers want to control farmers’ land through contract farming and get crops of their choice cultivated. Vicious attempts will be made to thwart your non-violent movement. Some similar conspiracies were hatched during my time. But you all should not lose patience. The agitation must remain non-violent and transparent. All the conspiracies of power will ultimately fail and you all will win.
You all must learn from Sardar (Patel) who had successfully conducted such movements. The success of the movements in Kheda, Borsad and Bardoli was due to its complete distancing from the deadly tendency of using farmers for political gains. Again I would like to tell you, the day you all rededicate yourself and recognize the power of non-violence, no power in the world can stop you.
Mohan Das Gandhi
(An imaginary letter from Mahatma Gandhi to the agitating farmers blocking the National Capital Region for almost one year now. The letter is written by Anu Verma, a Gandhian researcher based in Delhi. )