Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

The Indian Farmers’ Movement 2020–21: Part I: Reclaiming Postcolonial Nationalism from the State


On November 26, 2020, when international borders were still partially closed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, a new democratic and peaceful movement was taking shape in India, led by farmers. They wanted to register their protest against three contentious agricultural reform laws covering “Produce Trade and Commerce,” “Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services,” and an amendment in the definition of “Essential Commodities.” Thousands of men, women, and children from the farming communities of the northern states of Punjab and Haryana left their homes and fields and drove on tractors and pick-up trucks hitched with “trolleys” (trailers) to New Delhi.

At the borders of the national capital of the world’s largest democratic nation, the farmers witnessed the full display of the power of their own elected federal government. Their attempts to enter the city were blocked by the deployment of a heavy police force, and the capital was closed off at several points; excavators were sent to dig up trenches, elaborate multilayered barricading was erected with massive concrete boulders generally used to prevent the impact of bombings, iron grills normally used in India to control traffic and set up temporary checkpoints were placed, covered with barbwire to assure extra security, and if all of this was not enough, water tankers were brought in to spray cold water on the farmers, who were also beaten up with lathis (batons).


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