A tumultuous series of protests that aimed to change the course of history was seen by the farming community of India. Reason? The Farm Bill that was proposed. Voices of the agrarian community rang loud in the silence in unison asking for an end to be put to this. While journalists and legal figures have pondered over the issues in great detail to assess which side is really right in their demands, a teenager wrote a book on it. Yes. You heard that right. Most of us remained puzzled by the very core of the issue, but seventeen-year-old girl Amarveer Kaur Sahi took it up as her personal mission to raise her voice against the oppression of the farmers. Amarveer is a standard XII student at the Cambridge International School, Dasuya. Her goal was clear: leave behind a trace in history that would give others an understanding of what the Farm Laws were and why the streets echoed with battle cries. We caught up with the author of Inquilab 2020 and asked her the questions on your mind.
What were the Farm Laws and how does Inquilab 2020 address these?
What we witnessed in November was a stalemate between the farmers and the Government over the Farm Laws that the farming groups believed to be contentious and the Government claimed to benefit the community. Passed in September 2020, the Bills were signed into Law by President Ram Nath Kovind. November 25, 2020, saw farmers beginning what would be a long protest against the said Farm Laws, and thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana marched towards Delhi demanding the legislation be repealed.
What followed were sporadic protests across the country. But what was the battle against?
The Farm Laws explained
The first Farm Law titled 'The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020' permits that farm produce can be sold or bought outside the APMC mandis and this would be without a market fee, cess or levy and the trading could also be done through electronic means.
The bone of contention here is that the farmers believe with this law, APMC mandis will be abolished and MSP benefits lost.
The second Farm Law titled 'Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020' allows that farmers enter into a mutual agreement with agri-business firms in a kind of contract farming, where both parties will agree on a mutual price before the planting season.
The third Farm Law is an amendment to an existing act 'Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020'. With this, the Centre’s powers to impose stock-holding limits on food items are scrapped. This removes them from the list of essential commodities except under extraordinary conditions.
Inquilab 2020 highlights in detail why the farmers found these contentious and how they proceeded to protest against what they thought was unjust.
Get a brief insight into Farm Laws and their repercussions through Inquilab 2020
Amarveer says farmers are the backbone of any nation's economy as well as the roots of the culture. Belonging to a family that depends upon agriculture as a complementary income source, any attack on cultivators is a personal attack on the bread eaters according to her. “With the same idea in my mind, I started to write this book for not only the present but the future to read about it. Of course, anything not preserved in written form is lost.”
I am not writing this to pass a judgement. I am writing this to represent a voice - Amarveer Kaur Sahi
We asked Amarveer why the name Inquilab 2020, and she explains. “The literal meaning of the word "Inquilab" is revolution. I see this as a revolution and not as a protest, paving the way for social and psychological transformations in society, especially in Punjab. It is a revolution leading revolutions- bringing diverse people with diverse demands together.”
The way people chanted "swaraj" and "Azadi" before independence, with this as their only aim in their minds, now, people are fighting against the oppressive system to save their democratic institutions and the Constitution itself - Amarveer Kaur Sahi
How is Inquilab 2020’s coverage of Farm Laws different from that of the news?
Amarveer feels that media these days is a very controversial topic and while she does not wish to compare the Inquilab 2020 coverage of the Farm Laws with what is in the news, hers is just an effort to make every detail available in the written form, with the ground reality and actual occurrences at protest sites, many of which would have otherwise been unheard-of.
“My views are presented in a date-wise sequence and I have also tried to cover the things that the Government wanted to say in the section where Bills are detailed. It clearly mentions not only the 'benefits according to the Government' but also the contradictory part- 'disadvantages according to the farmers.' It details the opinion of union leaders like Mr Tomar which were shared by him post rounds of meetings. So I see it as a blend of facts and opinions.”
How does a 17-year-old mind comprehend such intense issues?
“Lack of awareness was not at all a challenge for me,” says Amarveer. “I am constantly living in an environment where people start their day and end it talking about the protests. The biggest hurdle was finding the official and verified news in a sea of rumours.”
Recounting one such incident when she found it tough to find factually correct information, Amarveer says she was searching about a statement given by the Union Minister Piyush Goyal comparing the medical camp at Farmers Protests in Delhi to ‘Lashkar or Naxal camp. Her progress was hindered. “While searching for the news I reached Twitter. Hinditvawatch had commented on the statement, but I was disappointed as I could not find any headline and any possible evidence, but one can not refuse that it did happen. Similar things happened to me while I was looking for statements of Harjit Grewal and Surjit Jyani. This was because these tweets were soon removed by the Government, accounts were suspended, and some of them even banned in India.”
How did the 17-year-old source her information?
Amarveer says in order to put together information for the book and stay factually correct, she discussed with and consulted various senior journalists who had been covering the protests and were in a really close association with it. “It was not at all an easy process, because I had to cross-check and make sure if all details being mentioned in it were right or not, as I did not want to convey to my readers anything unauthentic and false.”
The entire nation has been talking about these protests for over seven months now, she says. “People are presenting their thoughts verbally or in any other form. This is my way to express my thoughts, something which my conscience has made me do. The day I stop writing for my people, is either the day I die or my conscience does.”
A homeland that is fighting back does hold deeper personal meaning
Coming from the land which has a major portion of the agrarian community, Amarveer says the protests indeed held a deeper meaning for her. “Many representatives may be sympathetic towards the farmers but our entire state is empathetic for them. The Punjabis treat the land as their mother and worship it like a goddess.”
We are the ones who wait for the fruit for months after sowing. The more the value of the crop, the longer is the crop duration. Patience is bitter, but the fruit will be sweet. - Amarveer Kaur Sahi
She says this emotional attachment is the main reason behind the anxiety and the fear that they shall lose their fields. “It is not only about the emotional sentiments, but the majority of the population will also be affected financially as well, making it difficult to sustain.”
Inquilab 2020 is the voice of a generation
Inquilab 2020 is not simply a book that reflects one teenager’s thoughts on the situation of the Farm Laws in the Nation. The generations of today are echoed in the verses of the book. “I feel democracy is in danger. I say it as loud and clear as I can. The youth need to step into the field of reformation. It is not only about politics but the concept of volunteering for a noble cause must be introduced in the coming generation.”
The 17-year-old emphasises how "Environment", "Social sustenance" and “Institutional structures" are interlinked, and all three of them need attention. The youth must sense its responsibility in strengthening the three pillars -- judiciary, executive and legislative, she says.
In an appeal to everyone who is linked with the farmers' protest, she asks that they not lose hope and move back to their houses. Right shall triumph.