Beyond the Farmers Agitation By Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)

India was born in the blood bath of partition. Protests, riots and demonstrations have a long history here. One has seen upheavals like the Anti Hindi agitations (60s), the Railway Strike (70s), the Bombay Mill strikes and the Farmers agitation (80s), the Mandal Commission protests (90s) and many more. Communal riots which started with Independence crisscrossed the country to touch Ahmedabad, Delhi, Bombay, Bhiwandi, Hyderabad, Nellie, Godhra, Bhagalpur, Meerut, Muzaffarpur, Kandhamal and many more places at different times till the recent one at Delhi again. One has seen violent agitations for Telengana, Asaam, and Punjab. We have had Rath Yatra’s, demolition of the Babri Masjid as well reservation movements for Jats, Patels and Gujjars to name a few. 


The Idea of India has been challenged many times. At one level, the endemic North East insurgencies and the Naxalite/Maoist movements, based largely on internal aspirations. challenged the Idea. At another level Pakistan has been challenging the Idea in Punjab and Kashmir since the 80’s.  We have also weathered innumerous macabre terror incidents. The most prominent ones, to my mind being the 1993 Bombay blasts, 2001 Parliament attack, 2006 Mumbai Train bombings and the 2008 Taj attacks. To say India is a tumultuous country is a gross understatement. I could list more.


Despite these challenges and setbacks, India kept progressing. Irrespective of the kind of government in power, We tackled seemingly unsurmountable hurdles. Our  diversity in language, culture and religions forced us to share a common goal to stay and grow unitedly. The challenges when they surfaced were identifiable. A line of action was clearly visible. Political differences were existent but not irreconcilable. I went over all these events and analyzed them mentally. Compared to all these upheavals, the Farmers Agitation, per se, is a very minor ripple. However, it troubles me. I see insidious signs beyond the agitation. An assault on the Red Fort to take down the national flag from its ramparts has never happened before. It could not have happened unless it was planned systematically.  There is more to it.  


All political parties promised us reforms in the farming sectors in their manifestos to get our votes. Hence when the current government came out with a set of laws it was largely welcomed as milestone reforms by most commentators despite some opposition pooh poohing them. Months later, organized protests started against the laws. Fine. There might be issues/ flaws in the law. In any democracy, differences and demands are expected and resolvable. Farmers – Indian. Law – Indian. Protest -Indian. Government – Indian. Democracy – Indian. Solution should be Indian. A middle path was always visible.  It could have easily been reached if the intent was there. Do we need an external hand? No. However it appears that the insidious external intent was rolled into the fissures of protest from the start.  


Initially when it was alluded that there are Khalistani elements hijacking the agenda it was publicly felt that it was a case of crying wolf. However, the wolf was hiding behind Punjabi farmers and rural youth, who have been obviously incited.  What surfaced on our Republic Day was a premeditated assault on the Red Fort. The follow up through foreign celebrities and their ‘toolkits’ gave the game away. The ‘toolkit’ reveals a design and preplanning by months. If one pieces issues together, voices which emanated from Canada coincide with the timings revealed in the ‘toolkit’. Any discerning individual would know that the instigation is from Khalistani elements based in Canada and USA. All this is happening when China is sitting menacingly on our border with active Pakistani collusion. Also consider this. With internal troubles mounting in Pakistan, disenchantment is likely to set in Kashmir. The Kashmir cause is flagging off. Pakistan needs a new front. That too internal to India and seemingly by disaffected Indians. I can bet my bottom dollar that funding is from Pakistan and China. The picture of bosom-to-bosom friendship between the Pakistani Special Assistant to their PM and the US singer has revealed its own story. These events have unfolded exactly the way classic influence operations are carried out in the combined Pakistani and Chinese playbooks to exploit the fissures of democracies. In fact, in this case the fissure has been deliberately created to be exploited. Another issue is linked. It was Canadian authorities who first voiced support of the protest. There are also credible reports of Chinese troops being accommodated in Canada for training. Such linkages tell another facet of the story. Often, we have spoken that India will face a two and a half front war. The half front is here to complete the two fronts we are already facing. 


 Political opportunism is on full display. I have no issue with it. Politicians being what they are, will exploit an opportunity to capture power. That is the nature of politics. However, in this case, politicians are fueling the fire. Anyone with common political sense should know, that the entire issue has been instigated by external forces. It is indeed surprising that when the Supreme Court has given a ruling, no political party has even insisted that it be honored and followed. It is also surprising that there are no cogent reasons or suggestions to amend and strengthen the laws which have been put forward. Just scrapping them to show the government in poor light or bring it down has no value. In fact, the opposite will happen. Weakening the government is tantamount to putting our house on fire at this point of time. If the opposition has to win and be seen as mature it must define a way forward for the government.   


A point of note for all US based celebrities, non-resident Indians and toolkit owners who are giving prescriptions. When there are riots and assaults on the Capitol Hill, it is an insurrection where the guilty are to be prosecuted to uphold democracy! When Red Fort, the symbolic bastion of the Indian Republic, is attacked and the guilty acted upon, it is suppressing the voice of democracy.  Different strokes for different folks?  That is hypocritic. In 1947, a poor and starving India of 0.36 billon people were not expected to survive as a nation. Seventy years later, 1.3 billion Indians are a vaccine exporting power of a virus crippled world. This is despite the best of them running away and making their fortunes in foreign lands and commenting on what’s good for us when they do not know what is good for them! When USA was eighty-five, it went through a four-year Civil War. When USA is 245 years old its parliament (capitol) is attacked by people who did not accept an elected President! Also, India did not have to lose 50 million lives like the Chinese did to famines wrought by Great Leaps or were reduced to cannibalism due to the policies of leaders like Mao. We are doing much better than most. Thank you. Please look after yourselves. At the same time, we need to improve, and we know that better than most. 


Pakistan is increasingly unable to use LeT and JeM to prosecute its proxy war in India due to international pressure. It has already invested in Punjab by pumping in drugs and inducing addiction. The stage is now set to take it to the next level. The half front is shifting back to Punjab. Revival of the Khalistani movement must be nipped. I also think the people of Punjab owe it to themselves not to allow Khalistani elements to ruin everyone’s life once again at Pakistan’s behest. I am also confident they will do the needful. The Central government and the Punjab government must get together to act in a bipartisan manner to tackle the issue ruthlessly. 


The political parties must come together and tackle the issue as one – Indians. We are being challenged differently this time around. In letting each other down, our politicians are letting India down. Whether they are in government or in opposition does not matter. Tomorrow the roles might reverse. Nothing is permanent except the unity of India. This insidious movement is trying to undermine India as never before. The ruling party being the bigger one, with a huge mandate, bears the responsibility of taking the country along as one. Does it have the wisdom, grace and courage to reach out to the opposition to generate unity? In fact, that is the first line of action – generate political unity. Once that is done, other issues will fall in line. We can not go into summer with this half front aflame when the other two fronts are likely to come into action. 


As far as the farmers are concerned, they should be taken into confidence. They need advice not to fall in the clutches of outside elements. If I have one observation about the stand taken by the agitating farmers, it is that I have no issue with their demand to repeal the enacted laws. However, what after that?  There must be something beyond that which is better. That definition or requirement has not come up at all. They should also understand that such prolonged agitations only end up creating hardships for the common man. Also, not all farmers are really against the newly enacted farm laws. Having traversed many parts of rural India, I can say with confidence that these laws are not really inimical to the farmer as they are being made out by the agitators. Maybe some aspects need changes. There are many who support these newly introduced farm laws and are against the agitation. Agitating farmers need to understand that their way is not the only highway. The middle path of compromise is important. 


In a way this incident is good. Pakistan and Khalistani movement supported by the global diaspora have shot their bolt prematurely.  Things are clearer to those in office. What is required is a sensible and balanced multipronged approach which is based on building consensus and not a ham-handed response. We need to generate options for the farmers and get into a sustained dialogue with them on an outcome-oriented basis in a time bound manner. In doing so the government must take the opposition along. No point in being antagonistic. At the same time, they must winnow out the Khalistani elements and sort them out. Sagacious leadership and statesmanship is the need of the hour to snuff out this developing half front. We need to be ready for the troublesome summer ahead along the other two fronts.  


17 responses to “Beyond the Farmers Agitation By Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)”


  2. Very well put Shanker. Personally feel this chap Tikait has been given a long enough rope and its time to hang him. The refusal to talk or negotiate is clearly a sign to prolong and earn more money. Self above nation.Also feel the myth of Sikhs as ideal Indians has taken a severe beating because of a few 1000 goons from Punjab, sadly enabled by an opportunistic conniving ESM CM, but I am surprised that the Sikh gentry has not spoken out. I guess they will cry wolf when its all over and done.

  3. All very well written.Despite my seeking clarity on the desecration of the national flag at RF.Not one picture or the videos showed anyone going up to the flag,leave aside touching it.Please be nice and share the same.I totally condemn and abhor the actions of a group at the RF.Regards

  4. Shankar I am a fan of yours. As usual a well written and explained in a simple language for any sane person to understand it and am certain common farmer doesn't want the andolan to go the way it's heading now. Am sure good sense will prevail and things will fall in place

  5. A very balanced and well written article. We as soldiers have always been taught “Nation First “.But somehow these days,a number of soldiers, specially from a particular section of India,seem to be forgetting that and have obsessed themselves with their own ideology which is blinding their faith in the democratically elected govt,which has a massive mandate of the people. In doing so they are harming their own image besides compromising our national interest. And what about the rest of the country,our leaders from opposition, political parties and TV commentators and journalists? Does their own interest come above nation's? I really wonder and feel that if this half front is not taken care of on priority, it will become much more dangerous and pose a greater threat to our unity and integrity than the two fronts which are already belligerent and waiting for an opportunity to pounce.A terrific writeup from Pallepu Shankar as usual.

  6. Sorry, my comment went out as anonymous. I am Dilip kumar..Regards.

  7. I fully endorse your views. Unite, weed away the trouble mongers, and propose an ammended bill that adresses the concerns flagged during the talk. And if the situation still does not resolve take hard action but as a last resort. National Security first. Only if idea of India remains thst we can produce what we are doing today or else we will stare at a situation similar to Pakistan.

  8. Who are “Ideal Indians”? There are no ideal Indians. We are Hindus Sikhs Muslims Christian's SC/ST OBC Jats Tambis Mallu's Madrasi, Panju, North Indians Chinkies etcetc. So neither are Sikhs ideal Indians nor do they say so. I thought the Army had ideal Indians but sadly after retiring they chase hindutva agendas. Jai Hind .

  9. Well written. We in india know the problems and want to cash on the problems but unfortunately there do not have any positive or other suggestions.. The whole things is scripted on negative propaganda and no light anywhere.. Unfortunately the Self grandiose and Egos has in some of people's DNA and like History we look to serve others than lead …

  10. Very well balanced aarticle. Yes glad the truth of countries involved in giving oxygen to this protest is coming out loud and clear.

  11. I do not know enough about the new laws to comment on it. But the laws have been pushed down the farmers throats. And their protests got branded and colored with different hues. Some khalistani, some toolkit, some pakistani. Was there a sincerity in trying to defuse the protests ? I'm at a loss to understand what we are trying to portray. A Government full of muscle with obstacles that should be on Pangongtso ? Deny water, electricity and internet? To break a protest ? Somehow it doesn't jell.

  12. Very well articulated write-up. After exposing toolkits which are trying to manipulate, guide and monetarily help the 'andolanjivis' as described by the PM, they must be dealt with in the best interest of democratic India. Half front manufactured internally cannot be allowed to thrive. It's best to identify and isolate these elements in the best possible manner. The earlier the better.

  13. Thankyou sir for this detailed and informative piece. However I found some questions still unanswered.1. It took us a tweet from Greta to realise that a sinister plot was being hatched by China, Pak Khalistanis and Rihhana. What action do you propose for the heads of our elite intelligence services and army intelligence for such a negligence ?2. That such khalistani elements existed abroad, did not come to notice in Dec 2020. It was know for last 10 years. Why do you think no action has been taken by any govt to silence them and bring them to books. By any chance, do you think that it is in the interest of the political parties to keep such elements, (be it Kashmir or Punjab or assam or naxals) alive so that they can exploit them to raise the issues at an opportune time to garner votes ?3. Was there any incident, to your knowledge, in Punjab or elsewhere, that was attributable to khalistani extremists ? If not, then how come this element of Khalistan became a monster post Nov 26 (when farmers reached Delhi) averything is being organised by them including a coordinated attack by chinese, pak, a pop star and toolkit ?4. What actions were initiated to diffuse the situation between Jul (when the farmers started protesting in Punjab and Haryana) to avoid it from flaring up ?5. What could be the need for enacting central laws, for a subject as diverse as agriculture, which varies from state to state in, climate, soil, crop preference, marketing system, irrigation and other resources ?6. Coverage of a few more issues like the following would have made it more informative.a. The way ordinance route was adopted, and bills were passed bypassing all SOPs.b. Hesitation of Supreme court to adjudicate on the constitutionality of laws.c. That 39 mistakes were pointed out to the Govt. in the 3 laws on 3 Dec by the farmers.d. All pro-laws members in the Supreme court committees.e. Aspect of Deep Sidhu instigating the crowd on 25 Jan, his presence and safe passage from RF and his affiliation to the ruling dispensation.

  14. Please select the correct answer “The biggest beneficiary of the RF incident was :1. China2. Pak3. Khalistanis4. Farmers5. Govt of India

  15. Like the author says, it’s good that the entire plot has been exposed pre-maturely. Excellent piece. My compliments

  16. Sir may I know if it is col Mathur who served in 196

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