As the agitation in the name of farmers protest continues to make news at Singhu border, a new story of farmers versus locals is emerging. Hitherto, the clashes were reported between protestors and police. While police maintained commendable restraint, it is the group that positioned itself as farmers that unleashed brutality on forces and destroyed public properties.
Now, in the saga of protestors versus locals, in media discourse and social media discussions, a bias to the disadvantage of the later seems to be creeping in. The same locals at the Delhi border, who lend their emotional support to the farmers, are now being seen as ‘BJP supporters’ the moment they raised their voice against hooliganism and disruption which is affecting local livelihoods.
If you look at certain media reports, they are using quote marks for the word local, as if their credentials are doubtful. But two months back, when these local residents were helping the protestors in a good faith, ‘locals’ were just locals without any quotes in headline.
When the residents were helping farmers with water and milk, they were not ‘locals put in single quote’.
The moment they condemned the way that the protests turned out, a section of media indicated doubt on their credentials.
The Livelihoods of Local Getting Destroyed by Agitations
To be fair to the media discourse, there are some reports that narrated the story of local residents. This report published in India Today website explains how the locals who helped farmers’ union to set up their camps are now protesting and asking the protestors to vacate the place.
The report said, “the farmers’ protest at Singhu border has impacted some 1,800 factories in the Greater Kundli Industrial Area. Located on the northern outskirts of Delhi, Kundli houses hundreds of cold storages and industrial units dealing with textile, steel and export materials.”
The report quoted Ritesh Bajaj, owner of a dry fruit business saying:
“Goods are rotting in the cold storages. We import walnuts, almonds, figs and dry grapes, but they have a shelf life.”
A PTI report said, “Round-the-clock langar service, complete shut-down of industries, and no movement of people and vehicles are proving to be a death knell for several eateries dotting the stretch on both sides of the Delhi-Haryana national highway.”
Suspecting Locals is an Insult
It is but natural that the local people are protesting against the farmers’ union and demanding them to vacate the place when their livelihoods are shattered by these protests. The locals can no longer be expected to romanticise the concept of annadata at a time when their bread and butter is at stake due to the unending protests.
For all the reports and social media discussions that put the credentials of local protestors at Singhu border in suspicion, there is a pertinent query. Did they put farmers’ protest in single quote despite it being evident that there are many other elements involved in the protest? The face of the protest at Singhu border, Rakesh Tikait, who had just a few months back hailed the farm reforms has left no doubts about his specific political leanings. Did you see any media report putting single or double quote while calling him a “farmers’ leader”? Then why insult the locals who are raising their legitimate concerns?
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