It’s Fourth Time Narendra Modi has gone on the back foot

The spiking of the farm law is not the first incidence of going on backfoot; Narendra Modi has done this three times before reverting its decision under popular pressure.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally apologized to the nation when he announced on TV to repeal three Farm laws that he vociferously defended for the past year saying “Today, I apologize if some farmers did not understand what we wanted to do through the farm laws. We have decided to repeal the three farm laws. We will withdraw all these three bills in the upcoming Parliament session.”

This moment of victory of the farmers came on November 19, 2021, the day nation celebrated the ‘Guru Parab or the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev, the fountainhead of the Sikh religion.

This moment of glory came after one year of the farmer’s protest and was the longest in the history of protests in India. It also came after the supreme sacrifice made by some 700 farmers and represented the battle between the People’s power and State power.

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It may be recalled that the anti- CAA protests abruptly ended in March 2020 without accomplishing its goal and the government had a sense of victory that it did not buckle to people’s pressure to roll back the citizenship laws. The anti- CAA protest which began in December 2019 continued till March 24, 2020, but was forced to fold up due to the national lockdown following the Coronavirus alarm.

The farmer protest erupted in November 2020 following the government’s announcement to promulgate the three controversial farm laws continued for almost a year with the government using its entire might of the state power to make the farmers prostrate on their knees. The government remained firm not to budge an inch what may come, but equally the farmers stood on their ground. In the end, the government relented when it got convinced that it’s likely to be guillotined at the altar of democracy in the coming hustings at Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

The spiking of the farm law is not the first incidence of going on backfoot; Narendra Modi has done this three times before reverting its decision under popular pressure.

First, it was compelled to freeze the Land Acquisition, and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015 that aimed to dilute the 2013 law which replaced 1894 colonial law, because of the protest by the farmers and common people.

Second, the government was forced to stop the implementation of the biometric National Population Register (NPR) part of the UID/Aadhaar Number project under the Citizenship Act because of massive protests across the country.

The third government withdrew the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill, 2017 due to a movement led by the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC), and Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI).

The withdrawal of the FRDI Bill from the Lok Sabha, gave a huge sigh of relief to bank depositors and account holders because their deposits will no longer be used to bail out failing institutions as was proposed.

However, the government with its scorpion mentality has been trying since 2019 to reintroduce the withdrawn Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill, in the guise of the Financial Sector Development and Regulation (Resolution) Bill (FSDR). This bill has so far not been passed by the Parliament but after repealing the farm laws, it remains to be seen will the government try to get it passed or eat its humble pie.

Some other grey areas that are attracting people’s wrath are PM CARES Fund that has provision for anonymous donors and electoral bonds, a financial instrument for making donations to political parties that have been legalized by the Supreme Court through amendments in the Companies Act, 2013. However, there is people’s resentment against them and it remains to be seen will they continue or get spiked.

There are quite a few constitutional challenges pending before the Supreme Court against some of the issues that are attracting people’s wrath. Some concerned citizens have petitioned the Supreme Court to expeditiously look into the following cases and the ruling on those cases will show the mirror to the ruling government.

First, is the abrogation of Article 370 that was promulgated on August 5, 2019, without due Parliamentary process?

Second, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) violates a constitutional provision of the state being partisan towards a particular religion.

Third, SC has to hear the case on farm laws after receiving the report appointed by its own expert committee. The report has already been submitted but this case has yet to be heard.

Fourth, Sedition law IPC Section 124, under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) where scores of Muslim youth have been arrested and are languishing in jails.

Fifth, the breach of Fundamental Rights with regards to personal privacy relating to PEGASUS and ADHAR

Sixth, Electoral Bonds and transparency in Election Funding Seventh, Rafale Fighter Air Craft deal in which corruption is widely reported.

The concerned citizens have urged the Supreme Court to constitute Benches of appropriate strength without any delay and hear these cases without any delay. These cases are concerning the citizens and are of constitutional nature that’s pending before the Apex Court. These cases hold national importance and affect a large number of people and their early disposal will uphold constitutional values and restore the faith of the citizens in the judiciary and the Supreme Court.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Jefferson fellow at the East-West Center Hawaii and Maria Ressa has also been a fellow at the EWC.  He is based in Chennai and can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com

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