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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 1/30/21

Indian Farmers, Citizenship, and Modi

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Message Arshad M Khan

Subject as it is to the vagaries of weather, farming is an uncertain business, and many countries therefore subsidize farmers in one way or another. That includes the US. So it was in India through government-run mandis (markets) that supported prices.

As ever, there are two schools of thought: those that favor some form of intervention to assist farmers against the erratic ups and downs of pricing versus those that want private markets to reign supreme with minimal government interference.

It is with the latter view that the right-wing Narendra Modi government finds common ground in its new legislation and it is what the farmers' protests (now running for over 60 days) are about.

The farmers are mostly Sikhs from the rich grain-producing region of the Punjab and their march to the famed Red Fort to plant flags was symbolic. The fort with palatial audience halls and residential areas was built by Shah Jahan of Taj Mahal fame and served the Mughals thenceforth as the Delhi residence of the Mughal Empire.

In 1857, during an uprising to throw off the British yoke, the, by now, powerless Nughal Emperor became the symbolic head of the revolt. Sikhs had been implacable enemies of the Mughals and constituted a restless and increasingly ungovernable province until they governed it themselves. So it was that the British governor of the Punjab brought in Sikh troops to aid the overextended British forces in quelling the rebellion.

Whether it is part of Modi's Hindu-nationalist agenda or not, he has a way of riling up minorities. Last year around the same time it was the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Registry of Citizens (NRO) that appeared to target Muslims and fanned protests across the country.

The CAA blatantly excluded Muslims in easing the paths to citizenship of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains, who had arrived in India from Pakistan. Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The NRC required Muslims to prove their citizenship, an impossible task for poor, uneducated people who seldom register births.

Perhaps the answer to all this mayhem lies in Mr. Modi's origins. Born into a poor family, he was engaged as a toddler to a member of his caste and underwent a marriage ceremony at 14. He began living with his wife when he turned 17, but left abruptly after three months to go on a pilgrimage to the Himalayas.

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Arshad M Khan is a former Professor. Educated at King's College London, Oklahoma State University and the University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. He was elected a Fellow of the (more...)
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