Wednesday, 30 November, 2022
HomeOpinionThe liberal dilemma on Rakesh Tikait — overlook Muzaffarnagar riots or future...

The liberal dilemma on Rakesh Tikait — overlook Muzaffarnagar riots or future under Modi

By saving the farmers' protest from the clutches of a violent Republic Day rally and taking on the Adityanath govt in UP, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait has left Indian liberals in a fix.

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When Rakesh Tikait — the now de facto leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union — broke into tears in front of the media last week, he infused a new life into the farmers’ protest following the Republic Day violence. But Tikait, while becoming the latest leader in Indian politics to discover the effective use of ‘art of crying’, succeeded in doing something else too. He made India’s desperate liberals forget all about his controversial role in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and became their new champion in the ideological and democratic struggle against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre.

Through his tearful act, not only did Tikait wipe away popular memories of the 2013 riots but he also managed to turn a movement being led by Sikh farmers into a Jat-led rebellion with the chutzpah to stand up to the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh.

A protest that rose from the fields of Punjab has suddenly made inroads into the wild wild west of Uttar Pradesh, the newly found bastion of the BJP, which reaped massive political and electoral dividends from the August 2013 mahapanchayat that led to communal riots following tensions over three killings a few weeks earlier in Muzaffarnagar district. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and several BJP leaders had actively participated in the mahapanchayat, while Tikait and his elder brother Naresh were among the many named in the FIRs filed after the riots.

But all that seems a forgotten memory now as Rakesh Tikait leads the farmers, and the Indian liberals’ cause, in the protest against the Modi government’s three farm laws.

Also read: The road ahead for liberals is tough. Modi’s thalis were a loud message

Politics doesn’t hate tears

A visibly helpless Tikait cried in front of the media reiterating that he would rather kill himself than bow down to the iron-fisted government if it doesn’t repeal the farm laws. That brought the farmers’ protest, which seemed to be losing public support after the parallel ‘tractor parade’ on Republic Day ended in large-scale violence in Delhi, back on track. The protest is more intense and visibly more diverse now. People from Meerut, Baghpat, Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad and Bulandshahr soon began to throng to Delhi’s Ghazipur border to join the farmers’ struggle.

The last politician I remember who shed tears and moved public sentiment like this is Narendra Modi. In fact, Modi has perfected the art of making himself look earnest, relatable and true to any cause he undertakes just by crying. Be it demonetisation in 2016, when he cried asking people to trust him and deal with the hardships. Or when he cried after a paralysed woman called him “God” for providing medicines at subsidised rates. By shedding some tears on camera, one can make even disastrous policies look so much better.

While demonetisation did nothing to purge black money or make India a cashless economy, the Janaushadhi scheme had glaring irregularities and lapses in its accounting and misappropriation of interests raised from fixed deposits of the government grants.

Also read: How India’s liberals and opposition can start winning the battle of ideas

The liberal dilemma

But the comparison isn’t between Rakesh Tikait and Narendra Modi’s crying prowess. It is about Tikait’s ability to bring the horribly gone-wrong farmers’ protest back on track. And about people, like me, saying that a new leader is on the block.

So, is Rakesh Tikait, one of the accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots that left 66 people dead, most of them Muslims, and rendered more than 60,000 people homeless, the new leader in our fight against the majoritarian politics led by Hindu nationalist leaders?

And herein lies the liberal dilemma.

How desperate are we for an alternative to the BJP’s Modi-Yogi-Shah trinity that a constable-turned-politician once hand in glove with the BJP should now be hailed as a revolutionary who would challenge the current power holders? Perhaps he can be accepted now because he has expressed his regret for supporting the BJP.

As award-winning documentary filmmaker Nakul Singh Sawhney notes, “After 2019 (Lok Sabha election), there were many protests in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts led by BKU. What was interesting was the presence of many Muslim farmers… It was evident that Rakesh Tikait was trying hard to revive BKU.” On 29 January 2021, two days after Tikait’s tearful speech, a mahapanchayat in Sisauli village was attended by thousands of people.

According to Sawhney, when BKU leader Ghulam Mohammad Jaula got on stage and reminded Tikait of his “two biggest mistakes” — of “killing Muslims” and getting “Ajit Singh defeated” — “there was no booing, no attempts at shutting him up. There was pin drop silence. Introspection.” At the mahapanchayat, Sawhney writes, “A very rare decision was taken — to boycott the BJP.”

Also read: Not Kunal Kamra, the real test for Indian liberals is Sharjeel Imam

The answer is simple

There is nothing called a ‘perfect leader’. And it is only someone like Rakesh Tikait who, with his advantage of being perceived as a ‘bharat-mata-ka-saput’ (son of the soil), and who probably knows the workings of the BJP, understands what it takes to bring the mammoth down.

In fact, for the longest time, Tikait was considered a ‘stooge’ of the BJP in the current farmers’ protest. But when he stood ground in the wake of several kisan morchas and leaders, especially Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan chief V.M. Singh, withdrawing from the protests fearing sedition charges, Tikait gave the farmers a reason to rally behind him. His resolve to not leave Ghazipur despite the UP government’s eviction orders catapulted him from a doubtful character to a national hero.

That doesn’t mean the end of all challenges and obstacles on Tikait’s path to become the new liberal hero. Farmers at the Ghazipur border have reportedly turned away Muslim students from Jamia Millia Islamia who had come to extend their support. But the uniqueness of the farmers’ protest is that it isn’t about religion and will never become one, regardless of some protesters unfurling the Nishan Sahib at Lal Qila. And this has been made possible largely due to Rakesh Tikait. If larger sections of the Indian public start judging the Modi government for its policies as opposed to just Hindutva, it will be a huge advantage for the country’s absentee opposition to present itself as an option to the voters.

Farmers will always have people’s sympathy. You may call Sikh protesters ‘khalistanis’ and Muslim protesters ‘jihadis’ but you can never make the country’s citizens see farmers as ‘anti-national’. And if Tikait manages to keep the protest roaring and eventually make the Modi government cave in to the farmers’ demands, the greener pastures of the BJP-led central government will soon start turning arid. For now, shouldn’t India’s liberals then take what they get and leave other fights for another day?

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.

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  1. They’re “Trade Unions” in name only; they should more aptly be called by their true name – political parties, which for all intents and purposes, they are. From day one, anyone with a glass eye and a smidgen of grey matter would see that these “farmers” protests had less to do with farmers rights and everything to do with politics…Tiktait’s antics makes that even exceedingly clear.

  2. See madam in Tamilnad according reports the government doles money for maintenance of church and mosque but do not any money from these August institutions. Father and moulvi are paid in lakhs every year. They do not even pay taxes to government. But the government takes nearly Rs 1600 crores or more from temple collection but never maintain these temples. Many of them are bad condition. The priests paid not beyond Rs 5000 and the useless EO is paid beyond 50000 sometimes. If somebody puts any money in the plate the priest forced to put in the temple hundi. All Hindu temples have pay IT and higher electricity charges when compared mosques and churches. There are many temples in rural area converted mosque I Tamilnadu. Many temples lands were occupied but the government never bothered. Many temple idols were removed but administration simply sleeping. If Modi is Hindutva person he could have controlled. Let the idiot knows our secularism means pro minority and anti hindu . Please do not cheat.

  3. No words literally. This woman still looks at a muslim angle in even a farmer protest. Just how is this clown called a liberal when every word she utters is communal?

  4. It’s amusing as well as pathetically sad to see the state of Indian liberals. From standing up for ideals, it has degraded into opportunism. Perhaps it’s the metaphorical dying man who grabs at straws.

    This article reeks of both stupidity and desperation. The author might do himself some good by listening to the editor of ThePrint. Shekhar Gupta has himself said he supports the farm bills are in the interests of the nation. We will ever be able to compete with China by pandering to vested interests.
    If nothing else, the past few months have convinced me that Modi is the right choice for India. For he alone has the guts to take on the vested interests (like these few thousand farmers, labor unions, PSU employees) standing between India and success.

  5. If by shedding some tears on camera, one can make even disastrous policies look so much better the entire oppostion should start crying on the TV and may be they will come to power.

  6. Well, if Tikait proves to be solidly hindutvavadi , then BJP core votes would shift to him. Madam, try to sell this idea so that Modi goes down.

  7. Such desperation to embrace any sort of protest and put waning into it just because the liberals and the author does not like this government. India is not all about farmers and especially not like the khalistani movement we sat on Republic Day. The present government is not foolish and knows very we’ll how I deal with propaganda and conspiracies.

  8. Miss smart just inform me if Modi were to repeal how would it make BJP lose. And he can again shed tears as to how tough it is to reform despite majority… This will not make BJP get less seats next time anyhow. Everyone knows that these laws have no short term impact and long term impact on is on actual implementation.

  9. Jihadist posing as journalist support PEOPLE who want “jinnah wali azadi ” which is a euphemism for treatment of non believers and infidels in pakistan where every year more than 2000 hindu woman are abducted raped and forcefully converted and men enslaved.

    This is all they dream of and the anger is all about idol worshippers.

  10. Well ask Shekar Gupta ji whether the farm laws are good or not. So you want a good law to be repealed even if siding with murderers just to bring down the government.

  11. Why print allows such third grade biased so called journalist to write article on its medium. There are other better ways to depict neutrality. She is a hater who tries to target the Honourable PM in everything and would overlook everything to push her own agenda. She doesn’t have the audacity to question the so called liberals hipocrisy but would just condemn everything the government does. Enough of such stupid columnists. If Print wants me to continue with my subscription, better to do away with such third grade so called blinded political observers.

  12. First and most important thing is , A Muslim can never be a Liberal, so Ms Zainab sikandar , please stop calling your self as Liberal, Indian Muslims who supported Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Muslim League for creation of Pakistan, didn’t leave India , as they donot want to loose their property’s and lands and very confident about Muslims future with Nehru as Indian Prime Minister and Gandhi as their protector , after 1947 Indian Muslims can’t support Muslim League, so they switched party and started supporting communists, who are Anti Hindus and started calling themselves as Liberals, so Ms Sikandar please donot call your self as Liberal, you are a Jihadi and has given birth to Jihadis and will keep doing till your Jihadi Muslims takeover India and turn it in to another Pakistan, after all that is the reason Muslims in India stayed back even after creating their beloved Islamic Pakistan, mission to convert India into another Islamic state still pending .
    PS ; Mean while Hindus are divided in caste bases and supporting this Rakesh Tikait because he is a Jay all Jays will start supporting him !! Hindus donot need any external enemy.

  13. A person can truly be a liberal only when she/ he is self or peer certified. Begum Zainab Sikandar is following this time honoured tradition.

  14. Clever. Clever Clever. And disingenuous. Let us embrace any argument and person to bring down a government. The clever words , the opinion posed as an open question at the end, do not fool anybody.

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