In the farmer's shoes

The following is something I wrote in December 2020, to try and explain to the average office-goer what the farmers were going through at that point in the now triumphant farmers' protest.

To the office-goers who think the Farmers Protest is misguided and that the laws are actually good for them. Imagine this:

Imagine that the government, without asking you or anyone, passed laws that made it possible for your employer to pay you as little as ten rupees a month. Now imagine that when you said this was unfair, they told you this is for your own good because you have also been given the freedom to work anywhere in the world, for any company of your choice. They also tell you that if you want, you can even work for individuals.

Now, I am sure this was really easy for you to imagine if you work over the internet. But in order to really understand this, imagine what would happen if you couldn't. What if you had to go to work physically every day and what if your work involved physical movement of goods.

I think you will be extremely pissed. I think you will not like it at all. You have a life that involves commuting to work. You have your expenses sorted out. It is easier for you to deal with your salaried life than to manage ten thousand work engagements spread out all over.

Now imagine that you told the government you don't like this decision and that you will like things to go back to the way they were. Imagine you are ignored completely. Imagine you gather up your fellow office-goers and march to the seat of power to make your voice heard.

Imagine the police comes with sticks and cannons and tear gas to stop you from marching. Imagine being hit. Imagine seeing some of your friends die. Imagine asking why this is being done to you when all you want is to peacefully go and ask about a decision about your livelihood.

Some people from the media come to interview you. They are people from your favourite news channels - nationalist journalists who care about the nation more than anything else. But they don't ask you about your problems. They ask you who sent you and how you are paying for it.

You tell them you are there in your personal capacity and they nod and leave but that evening, as you stand in the cold and watch the news on your phone, you see that they are declaring you a terrorist and an enemy of your dear leader. Imagine what that will feel like.

In your attempts to be critical of the protesters (and the very act of protest, which BTW is a democratic right), don't lose sight of the human equation at work here. Despite the marketing, India has always had a digital divide problem. The farmers who say you can't download food - they are not wrong. A government that tells farmers they don't know what is good for them and a media that will call farmers terrorists for complaining about it, are not going to be your special friends for long either, despite your high opinion of yourself.

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