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Protest fallout: How opposition’s dangerous game of fuelling farmers’ protests threatens to leave deep scars on the country’s next gen

The objective of this article is not to shame teenagers for online abusing and bullying but it is meant to reflect on how the unnecessary hullabaloo over the farmers’ protests by opposition parties and their allies have pulled the country’s next generation in a political maelstrom.

The central government in September 2020 made a bold move of initiating the much-needed reforms in the agriculture sector that were marred with inordinate delays and numerous deferrals. In this context, three new Farm Bills were passed by the government that were aimed at unlocking new opportunities for the beleaguered farmers of the country and help them in raising their incomes and productivity.

However, ever since the Modi government passed the Bills that are intended to benefit the farmers, opportunist opposition political parties and activists harbouring pathological hatred for PM Modi have fallen over themselves to delude the farmers into believing that the reforms would hurt their interests. Elaborate falsehoods, scaremongering, and lies were peddled by the opposition parties and ‘intellectuals’ to make farmers believe that the Farm Bills legislated by the Centre would enable corporates to take over the lands and thereby adversely impact their livelihood.

Opposition political parties and their allies in leftist media join hands to spread lies and misinformation about Farm Bills

The deceit employed by the likes of Congress, Aam Aadmi Party or Trinamool Congress Party to fan an anti-Modi wave is underscored by the fact that each of these opposition parties and several others had promised to bring in a similar set of agriculture reforms in their respective election manifestos.

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi launched a desperate attack against the Modi-led government by terming the Farm Bills as ‘Black Laws’ and resorted to fear-mongering on more occasions than one. Besides claiming that the Bills would enable corporatisation of the farmlands, Rahul also stated that the newly introduced agriculture laws would ‘enslave the farmers’. It is a different matter that former PM Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and even Rahul Gandhi had once supported these ‘Black Laws’. It is also worth noting that the Congress party had made similar promises of reforms in its 2019 General election manifesto.

Similar is the case with Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party that is perpetually vacillating on the issue of the Farm Bills, trying to have its cake as well as eat it too. In November 2020, the Delhi government led by the Aam Aadmi Party quietly notified one of the three Farm Bills passed by the central government. As protest swept the national capital region, Kejriwal resorted to theatrics and sensationalism when he tore off the newly introduced Farm laws, in a bid to extend their support to the protesters demonstrating along the Delhi borders. 

Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government also passed a resolution demanding the annulment of the three agriculture laws. It is also noteworthy to mention that the Kejriwal-led AAP had vowed to enact similar agricultural reforms in their election manifesto for Punjab assembly elections in 2017.

The Mamata Banerjee-led TMC also has a similar story to that of Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal. The party has been opposing the Farm Bills just because it was passed by their nemesis—The Modi government. Last month, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee asked the BJP government to resign over the Farm Bills. However, she had passed similar laws in West Bengal about six years ago in 2014.

As is evident in each of the cases listed above, the opposition parties did not shy away from sounding the false alarm because it was aligned with their grand scheme of subverting the Modi government, even if that meant undermining the interests of the very farmers whom they claimed to be fighting for. These opposition political parties instigated the farmers to launch protests and pitted them against the central government so that they could revive their dying political fortunes and put the brakes on the BJP’s inexorable rise.

The left-leaning ‘intellectuals’ and commentariats abetted these political parties by adding fuel to the protests and continuing the imbroglio. Despite the Centre’s explicit refusal to include politicians in the farmer-government negotiations , ‘Ichhadhaari protester’ Yogendra Yadav is steadfast in his attempts to be a part of the negotiations. The left media has also bent over backwards to portray the Modi government as insensitive to the farmers’ demands and thereby engender resentment among people against the Centre.

Teenagers subjected to online abuses and harassment for supporting the Farm Bills

The collective efforts by the opposition political parties and their lackeys in the left-leaning media to stoke anarchy and disruption have thrown up a pandora’s box. It has sowed the seeds of discord in the society which now threatens to engulf, arguably, the most the vulnerable section of the society—the teens. Young and impressionable teenagers are now embroiled in bitter quarrelling and sparring on social media websites over their stance on the Farm Bills.

The fact that actors and singers such as Diljit Dosanjh and other prominent personalities have also weighed in on the ongoing farmers’ protests has only served to influence the country’s next generation to have a rigid stance on the farmers’ issue and vigorously defend it, even if it meant resorting to bullying, abusing and harassing the contrarians.

Recently, a series of tweets by a Twitter user against the newly introduced Farm Bills attracted mix reactions—with many opposing her views while several others agreeing with what she was saying about the Farm Bills.

Twitter thread that triggered the online bullying

The user alleged that the GoI had a larger agenda behind passing the Farm Laws which was to create genetically modified organism(GMO) crops to control the population and its health. The user alleged that the promotion of GMO crops was done to make corporates richer and middle class poorer. She also added that GMO would destroy the natural immunity because of consumption of unnatural food.

This wild conspiracy theory naturally drew severe flak on social media, with many rubbishing the user for making incredulous claims to oppose the Farm Bills. However, what ensued later was beyond the imagination of the Twitter users who had interacted on the tweet thread.

Those who had dared to oppose the far-fetched assertions made in the thread were unsolicitedly added to a vile Group Chat where anti-farm bill supporters unleashed a torrent of abuse against them just because they had expressed their support for the Farm Bills.

Supporters of Farm Bills systematically targeted and harassed on Group Chats

The anti-farm bills supporters did not shy away from using nasty invectives, rape threats, sexual innuendos, racist and casteist slurs against those who did not share their views on the Farm Bills. Screengrabs of this gross chat group reveal that not just the Farm Bills supporters but PM Modi, Jain monks, along with other religions were also reviled by the detractors. The chats revealed that even when the victims threatened the online bullies of initiating legal action against them, they did not back off and continued abusing and making vulgar remarks.

Supporters of Farm Bills systematically targeted and harassed on Group Chats

When one of the victims took to Twitter to share her traumatic experience, many responded to her, claiming that they had endured similar ordeal for expressing their views that were at variance with the anti-farm bills proponents.

Opposition political parties and their allies to be blamed for widening the chasm between people in the country

The Group Chat was created with the sole purpose of shaming and abusing the pro-Farm Bills supporters and bullying them into silence. One of the victims revealed that she was added to the group just because she had liked somebody else’s comment on the tweet thread.

Conversation between two social media users who were unsolicitedly added to an abusive Group Chat

It is profoundly disturbing that the fuss over the ongoing farmers’ protests has created a deep fissure within the society and pitted teens against each other. It also highlights how the opposition political parties, in their bid to mount an attack against the Modi government, have turned a blind eye against the social upheaval that their lies and propaganda against the Farm Bills has unleashed.

The objective of this article is not to shame the teenagers for online abusing and bullying but it is meant to reflect on how the unnecessary hullabaloo over the farmers’ protests by the opposition parties and their allies have pulled the country’s next generation in a political maelstrom, leading them to jettison tolerance, courtesy and basic decency against their fellow citizens.

The case evokes the perils associated with online abusing and bullying

This case also brings to mind the ramifications of online abusing and bullying. Earlier in May 2020, a 17-year-old boy named Manav decided to take the extreme step of committing suicide. At that time, the Bois Locker Room controversy was just about gaining steam. An Instagram group had been outed by a girl, where a bunch of teenage boys were seemingly discussing women, sharing their explicit photographs and discussing how to gang-rape them.

Amidst the controversy, a teenage girl took to Instagram and narrated a story about how she was allegedly raped over 2 years ago by a boy named Manav. In her post, she explicitly shielded herself by adding a disclaimer – ‘I don’t have any proof’. This had triggered a barrage of criticism against Manav, who saw his life upended and decided to end his life, to shield himself and his parents from the troubled path that lay ahead.

It is, therefore, all the more important that the teenagers, who are suckered into fighting over the Farm Bills, be nurtured and preserved and there potential be harnessed for the betterment of the society, instead of being used as pawns and foot soldiers by the political parties in their political and ideological battles against their opponents.

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Jinit Jain
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