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Siege of Delhi Resounds Beyond the Raisina Hills

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By Sidharth Mishra

Ordinarily, Delhi seldom slows down because of an ongoing agitation. The life remained normal in most of the parts of the national Capital even as the North-East district was caught in a bloody riot earlier this year. Our Constitution has been described as being unitary in spirit and federal in form. As far as life and form of our national Capital goes, it’s the reverse that is unitary in form but federal in spirit.

Delhi has this capacity to work through its largely autonomous units defined by the five geographic divisions – East, West, North, South and the New Delhi. These units have been further divided for the administrative purposes. These geographical entities also enjoy distinct cultural and economic identities too. Thus, Delhi all these years managed to remain aloof to national issues being agitated at and around the Raisina Hills in New Delhi.

However, the farmers’ agitation has changed this scenario. A siege has been laid around the national Capital, which is now affecting each of the geographic, administrative, economic and cultural segment of the national Capital. This is happening because a siege of the national Capital is being laid for the first time since the siege of Delhi laid by the British forces in 1857, which ended in the fall of an already tottering, doddering, teetering Mughal reign.

The siege this time, in fact is bigger than the British siege, which was limited to the surrounding of the walled city. The other major difference is that the walled city in itself was economically an autonomous unit which could stand-up to the siege through the period of Monsoon for full three months.

This is no further true for the National Capital Territory, which has economic and social extensions into the National Capital Region (NCR), which is spread across the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. A large part of the work force in the national Capital today stays in the NCR and similarly the industrial and the IT hubs of the NCR have an umbilical link with the residents and the traders of the NCT.

Thus, by choosing to lay siege and not enter the national Capital, the farmers have strategically avoided being cordoned off or isolated. Secondly, they have on a daily basis managed to make a point to the very urban work force of the NCR-NCT, crossing borders to their places of work and returning back, about an issue which has rural roots and rural fruition.

Allowing a standoff on the borders with the various states is not very desirable proposition, the Centre must realise. While their intent about introducing farm reforms could be appreciated but their communication skills about the same being benefitting needs admonition. The attempt terming the agitation first being propped by the pro-Khalistani forces and now clubbing them with the Maoist elements is uncalled for.

A farmers’ agitation replicates the cultural mosaic of rural India in all its hues. There could be presence of fringe elements, who would try to use the agitation to their benefit. Given such a scenario, its all the more important that the government engages fruitfully with the farmer leadership, which predominantly remains apolitical. Even if its political, there is no harm in engaging with them and end the siege at an early date.

The NCT cannot remain to be cut off from the NCR for a very long period, if the plan of the government is to sap the farmers of their energy by stretching the negotiations far. Its to the government’s advantage that the agitation so far has remained on the borders of the national capital; its fanning out in the rural India could prove to be an insurmountable task to contain.              

(First Published in The Morning Standard)


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