The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is sticking to its same old, time-tested separatist narrative to steer through the farmers’ protests that otherwise need a humanist approach and some sincere listening.
The party ruling the Centre is facing widespread criticism from farmers for promulgating new farm laws that they believe would leave them at the mercy of big corporates and destroy the minimum support price (MSP) system that provides a safety net.
Leaders from the rightwing party, which relies on ‘nationalism’ speeches to justify the government’s actions, have resorted to giving farmers separatist epithets.
BJP’s Member of Parliament from North East Delhi Manoj Tiwari this week claimed that the “tukde-tukde gang” was behind the agitating farmers camping outside Delhi, waiting for a dialogue with the Union government to discuss their demands.
Tiwari, former state president of the saffron party, said that this “tukde tukde gang” was trying to turn the farmers’ agitation into a Shaheen Bagh-like protest. The MP was referring to the months-long sit-in by women at south Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh before the pandemic struck to protest against the Centre’s citizenship law that they believed were biased against Muslims.
With determined protesters, including octogenarians, braving the winter chills, Shaheen Bagh became the hub and icon of the nationwide anti-citizenship law protests.
Tiwari went on to allege that slogans in favour of Khalistan were raised at the protests, so were threats to the prime minister of the country. He said it’s a “well planned conspiracy” to create “unrest”.
Reports quoted Tiwari as saying, “The presence of individuals and groups who opposed the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Shaheen Bagh clearly establishes that the “tukde-tukde” gang is trying to experiment with Shaheen Bagh 2.0 and create unrest under the garb of farmers’ protest.”
However, the BJP leader has contradicted the stance of his own party’s government. The term “tukde tukde gang” finds no mention in the official rule books, according to the Union home ministry, even though the minister in-charge rarely forgets to use the moniker in his speeches.
“The ministry of home affairs has no information concerning the tukde-tukde gang,” the ministry had said in response to an RTI query by an activist last December. In literal sense, the separatist tone of the word is well understood.
The term coined by the right-wing dates back to the February 2016 controversy that pertained to the alleged raising of “anti-India slogans” at Delhi’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), which had snowballed into a national issue occupying primetime debates on Indian news television, and lots of shouting. The charges, however, remain unproven, and the moniker, baseless.
But Tiwari isn’t the only BJP leader taking a dig at the protests; his colleagues have been regularly trying to discredit the stir. Amit Malviya, who heads the party’s social media department and was recently flagged by Twitter for sharing ‘manipulative media’, has also alleged Khalistani agenda behind the farmers’ protests.
Sharing a video that contained the text ‘Khalistani agenda behind Punjab farmers’ protest’, Malviya tweeted last week, “What kind of farmer agitation is this? Is Capt Amarinder Singh playing with fire? When will Congress realise that politics of aligning with radical elements has reached its sell date?”
The BJP leader, who has now been given the additional charge of West Bengal ahead of next year’s Assembly elections, was referring to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who belongs to the Congress and has expressed support to the farmers’ agitation in line with the party’s stand against the farm laws.
One of Malviya’s tweets, in which he tried to discredit Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s post on the farmers’ protest, was flagged as manipulated media, in probably the first-of-its-kind check on ‘fake news’ by the microblogging site. Malviya’s claim was also found to be false by fact-checking platforms AltNews and BoomLive.
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The ‘Khalistani agenda’ allegations first surfaced during a press conference of Haryana’s BJP Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who has also faced criticism for using the police to suppress the farmers’ protest. The farmers faced lathi charging, water cannons and tear gas as the Haryana police tried to stop them from marching towards the Delhi border.