Did Modi Repeal Farm Laws Out of 'Respect'? Here's 12 Times BJP Leaders Tried to Discredit the Protests

Over the last year and more, BJP leaders have tried their hardest to claim that it was not farmers who were protesting, but 'anti-national elements'.

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New Delhi: While repealing the farm laws on Friday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it seem like the Bharatiya Janata Party has utmost respect for farmers. “It is important for us that we have not been able to convince all farmers of the benefits of these laws,” he said, adding that this was why the Union government had decided to repeal them.

Just a little bit of recall, though, makes the prime minister’s words seem less than convincing. Over the last year and more, since farmers began voicing their concerns about the three controversial laws and then protesting at Delhi’s borders and in other states, BJP leaders have made several offensive, provocative and even threatening remarks about the farmers.

Here’s a list of 12 things BJP leaders said against the protesting farmers, which bring Modi’s claims under question. Most of these remarks aimed to discredit the protests, making it seem like it was not farmers with valid concerns but forces with “vested interests” who were protesting.

This list is not exhaustive, but does throw light on the general attitude BJP leaders have shown towards the protests.

1. ‘Just two minutes to discipline you’: Ajay Kumar Mishra

The one who has perhaps made the most headlines for what he said about the protesting farmers is Union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra. “Face me, it will take just two minutes to discipline you fellows,” Mishra was heard saying in a video. “‘I am not only a minister or an MP and MLA… People who know me even before I became a parliamentarian know that I never run away from taking on challenges. The day I accept a challenge you all will have to leave not only Palia (a local place in the district) but Lakhimpur (his constituency) itself.”

Mishra’s remarks garnered specific attention after his son was allegedly involved in the violence against farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri. A VIP convoy allegedly including Ashish Mishra mowed down protesting farmers, killing four. While Ashish is currently in custody, his father continues to be a member of Modi’s cabinet.

2. Protestors are ‘terrorists…with Khalistani flags’: Jaskaur Meena

A common refrain among BJP leaders trying to pull down the farmers’ protest has been that the protestors are “Khalistanis” with support from outside India. One of those to make this claim, without evidence, was the BJP MP from Dausa, Rajasthan, Jaskaur Meena. Meena also claimed that farmers had AK-47 rifles, even though the protests have been peaceful.

Ab ye krishi kanoon ka hi dekh lijiye, ki atankwadi baithe hue hain, aur atankwadiyon ne AK-47 rakhi hui hai, Khalistan ka jhanda lagaya hua hai…(Now see these thing about the farm laws, that terrorists are sitting, and terrorists have A-47, have flags of Khalistan),” Meena was heard saying in a video tweeted by the official Rajasthan BJP account.

3. ‘Khalistanis and Maoists’: Amit Malviya

The head of BJP’s IT cell, Amit Malviya, too jumped on a similar bandwagon. He claimed – again without evidence – that the protesting farmers have links to both Khalistanis and Maoists. He also accused Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal of trying to “burn down” Delhi, since Kejriwal had expressed his support to the farmers.

4. ‘Goons posing as so-called farmers’: Y. Satya Kumar

In another remark that suggests the BJP wasn’t really taking farmers’ concerns about the three laws seriously, party national secretary Y. Satya Kumar claimed that the protesters weren’t farmers at all but “goons”. He also called those expressing their dissent “Khalistanis” and “jihadis”.

“The manner in which the goons posing as so-called farmers are carrying out violent agitations in Uttar Pradesh, seems to be not a coincidence but a well-planned experiment,” he said in the tweet. He went on to say that “jihadi and Khalistani elements” want to spread unrest in the state.

5. ‘Protest hijacked by extremists’: Dushyant Kumar Gautam

BJP national general secretary and Uttarakhand state unit in-charge Dushyant Kumar Gautam had claimed that “pro-Khalistan and pro-Pakistan” slogans were being raised at the farmers’ protests, even though no such slogans had been reported.

“The agricultural laws are for the whole country, but why are the protests only in Punjab? Slogans of Khalistan Zindabad and Pakistan Zindabad have been raised by people in the protests. How can it be called a protest then?” said Gautam. “Extremist elements have hijacked the protest and are raising slogans for those who are anti-national forces.”

6. ‘Unwanted elements’: Manohar Lal Khattar

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar claimed that there were “unwanted elements” in the protests who were openly supporting Khalistan. He also said that there were slogans being raised like “if we could assassinate Indira Gandhi, then why not Narendra Modi”. While he said his government was looking into these “elements”, nothing ever came of this.

7. ‘Tukde-tukde gang’ has hijacked the protest: Sushil Kumar Modi

Former Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi used one of the BJP’s favourite bogeys to attack the protests, saying that the movement had been hijacked by the “tukde-tukde gang”. This same gang, according to the BJP, is responsible for almost all the dissent in the country – from student activists to the anti-CAA movement.

“The kind of slogans that were raised at Delhi’s latest farmers movement and the manner in which it is being run on the Shaheen Bagh model clearly show that the ‘tukde-tukde gang’ and anti-CAA forces have left no stone unturned to hijack the movement,” Modi had tweeted in Hindi.

8. ‘Guinea pigs for anarchist designs’: B.L. Santhosh

BJP national general secretary B.L. Santhosh seemed to believe that farmers were not acting on the basis of their own concerns, but instead being led by others including activist Medha Patkar and AAP leaders. “Don’t allow farmers to become guinea pigs for anarchist designs,” he tweeted.

9. ‘Infiltrated by Leftists, Maoist elements’: Piyush Goyal

Pretty soon into the protest, Union minister Piyush Goyal claimed that it wasn’t really farmers who were protesting, as the protest had been infiltrated by “Leftists” and “Maoist elements”. They were protesting not on farmers’ issues, he went on, but to demand the release of those arrested for “anti-national activities”.

“We now realise that the so-called farmer agitation hardly remains a farmers’ agitation. It has almost got infiltrated by Leftist and Maoist elements, a flavour of which we saw over the last two days when there were extraneous demands to release people who have been put behind bars for anti-national (and) who have been put behind bars for illegal activities,” said the railway minister.

10. ‘Sinister design’: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad too joined the bandwagon of BJP leaders trying to discredit the farmers’ protest, saying that the “tukde-tukde gang” had taken over the protests and a “sinister design” is involved. This is why talks between farmers and the Centre had failed, he claimed.

11. ‘China and Pakistan behind protests’: Raosaheb Danve

Another Union minister who wanted the public to believe it wasn’t really farmers on the street was Raosaheb Danve.

“The agitation that is going on is not that of farmers. China and Pakistan have a hand behind this. Muslims in this country were incited first. What was said (to them)? That NRC is coming, CAA is coming and Muslims will have to leave this country in six months. Did a single Muslim leave? Those efforts didn’t succeed and now farmers are being told that they will face losses. This is the conspiracy of other countries,” he said.

12. ‘Well planned conspiracy’: Manoj Tiwari

Delhi BJP MP Manoj Tiwari too stuck too the “tukde-tukde gang” line, adding that the protests were a “well-planned conspiracy”.

“Presence of individuals and groups who opposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and 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 grab of farmers’ protest,” he claimed.

While the BJP and its supporters may have done their best to try and discredit the protests, the farmers were not moved. They stuck by their demands – and the Union government has now had to give in.