India: The movement against Modi’s land-grab ordinance has won a major victory

Deepening Crisis, Growing Mass Unrest, And A Great Victory against Modi’s Landgrab Fiat

The BJP has all along been keen on invoking and appropriating the legacies of some leaders of the Congress. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Lal Bahadur Shastri are two such key names. Building the world’s tallest statue in memory of Patel was a key theme of Narendra Modi’s 2014 election campaign. And the Modi government never misses an opportunity to remind us that 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indo-Pak war and the demise of Lal Bahadur Shastri. But as mass anger catches up with the Modi government for every betrayed promise, the symbolism of Patel and Shastri has begun to acquire a new quirky connotation.

In India’s public memory, the name of Lal Bahadur Shastri remains firmly associated with the slogan “jai jawan, jai kisan’. The organic link between the peasantry and the army underpinned many glorious chapters of India’s modern history. From the upsurge of 1857 and other peasant-adivasi revolts of that period to the communist-led peasant war of Telangana, the peasant-military organic connection has always been a key dimension of popular anti-feudal anti-colonial resistance in India. Lal Bahadur Shastri had effectively turned this organic relation into a social doctrine of national security for the Indian state. However much Modi may try and invoke the legacy of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the glaring truth of 2015 is that both peasants and (ex)-soldiers are today feeling badly betrayed and are up in arms against the apathy of the Modi regime.”One Rank, One Pension" (OROP) has been a long-standing popular demand in the Indian army, and the BJP and the Congress both highlighted this demand as a prominent promise in their 2014 election campaign. But much as Narendra Modi the campaigner had promised it, Modi the Prime Minister continues to treat the ongoing OROP agitation of ex-soldiers with contemptuous apathy and repressive arrogance. For Modi and Shah OROP may well be just another ’chunavi jumla’ or empty electoral rhetoric, much like the fake promises of repatriation of black money, scam-free governance and ’achchhe din’, but for the thousands of former soldiers and war veterans agitating for OROP defying governmental apathy and police high-handedness, OROP is a shocking case of betrayal by a regime of tall talk and zero delivery.

India’s distressed farmers fare even worse than these retired soldiers as victims of the government’s flawed policies and utter insensitivity. The government has just acknowledged the ’death’ of Modi’s favourite land-grab ordinance after promulgating it as many as three times and yet failing to convert it into law. While this does mark a victory for the popular resistance against thie government’s draconian anti-farmer pro-corporate offensive, the attack on agriculture and agricultural land continues relentlessly. Added to this injury is the insult of brazen official conspiracy to brush aside the most shameful and alarming fact of peasant suicides through statistical sophistry and spurious psycho-analysis. To be sure, farmers are not going to accept this insult-laden injury inflicted by India’s most corporate-friendly regime, and the simmering rage of rural India is bound to assert itself as a growing political reality.

The shadow of agrarian distress can be seen clearly in the sensational rise of Hardik Patel with the war-cry of “Jai Sardar, Jai Patidar”. This young crowd-puller from the powerful Patel community of Gujarat has begun to rattle Modi with a new twist in the tale of Sardar Patel which Modi thought he had masterfully monopolised. The absurd demand for reservation for one of India’s most powerful social groups may well be a ploy to subvert the entire system of reservation as it has evolved over the years, but the fact that it has managed to rally hundreds of thousands of Patel youth in Modi’s own state clearly reflects the hard economic reality underlying the myth of Modi’s globalized Gujarat. This is not the mythical Gujarat of milk and honey that Modi has been painting in his election speeches, this is the Gujarat of deepening agrarian crisis and farmer suicides. Not the vibrant Gujarat Modi has been smartly marketing to greedy investors, but the Gujarat of real life where millions of young people remain unemployed or slave away for paltry wages. Not the globalized Gujarat driven by the monetary muscle of prosperous NRIs, but the Gujarat of corporate plunder and economic crisis where the Adanis and Ambanis rule the roost even as diamonds lose their glitter in global markets.

It is of course too early to say how the Hardik Patel show will pan out in the coming days - whether his big-bang beginning will fade away with a whimper or we are here to see the rise of a new political force akin to a Gujarati version of Raj Thackeray, or a new version of the Navnirman movement of yesteryears. Socially and ideologically, this “Jai Sardar” campaign also appears to be very much compatible with the Sangh-BJP agenda, and the assertion of ’Patel power’ may therefore well end up being co-opted or subsumed within the Sanghi scheme of saffron politics. But there can be no mistaking the definitive signs of a powerful social unrest brewing all around us.

The challenge facing the revolutionary communists and other forces of people’s struggles is to boldly intervene in this critical juncture and unleash a powerful democratic resistance. The movement against the land-grab ordinance has won a major victory; through the 2 September countrywide mass strike trade unions have also declared their resolve to defeat the proposed anti-worker labour law amendments, and the voices of reason and resistance are getting louder against every assault on democracy in every sphere of life. We must unite these multiple streams of protest into a decisive assertion of the people against the corporate-communal offensive of the Modi regime and for the fulfillment of people’s basic needs and democratic aspirations.


* WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2015. ML Update. A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine. Vol. 18, No. 36, 01 ­– 07 SEPTEMBER 2015:

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