Thousands of Farmers March in Haryana. Between Kangana & Rhea, is There Space for Them on TV News?

Social Commentary

Thousands of Farmers March in Haryana. Between Kangana & Rhea, is There Space for Them on TV News?

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The woes of thousands of farmers in Haryana received less coverage from the media this week than the demolition of an illegal construction at a movie star’s office in Mumbai. Yesterday, on 10 September, a procession of farmers heading to a protest against ordinances introduced by the central government in Haryana’s Pipli were stopped by police near Kurukshetra. The farmers and police clashed, with visuals of the police resorting to a lathi charge against the gathered farmers hitting the internet and generating outrage.

The farmers were protesting the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, and an amendment in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. The farmers fear these ordinances, which the central government is dubbing as reforms, will not guarantee them a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crops. Their demands included legislation to ensure MSP.

However, the state authorities did not grant the farmers’ unions and organisations, with Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) among them, permission to hold their protest, citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason. The farmers went ahead with the protest anyway, pointing to political parties hosting functions as their justification. On being stopped by the police on their way to the protest site, the situation led to the lathi charge against the farmers.

After a few hours of unrest, the authorities relented, removed the roadblocks, and allowed the farmers to hold their protest at Pipli Mandi. The optics of policemen resorting to force against farmers reflected badly on the state, and Jannayak Janta Party leader Digvijay Chautala, the brother of Haryana’s Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, told Indian Express “Resorting to lathicharge is brutal especially on a senior citizen as photos being played on media show. It has hurt sentiments of farmers in general and we understand their pain.”

Hopefully, the country’s journalists can be as sensitive as Chautala, and devote some time to covering issues that actually affect the masses instead of conducting witch hunts against Bollywood stars from their studios.