Farmer agitations have happened in Maharashtra many times before but one very dangerous and new aspect of the agitation taking place now is the urban versus rural social divide that the state is witnessing. On social media and in all interactions one sees a deeply divided groups of citizens very aggressively putting their views forth and the agitation is also completely politicized like never before.
The dangerous thing about the current farmer agitation is that the urban class has not shown any empathy towards it and is seen in fact resenting the actions of the farmer groups while the rural class which comprises farmers and their families is not just supporting the agitation but also holding the urban consumers responsible for their plight.
Farmers and their supporters are very vocal on social media about the tendency of the urban class of spending senselessly in multiplexes and malls but not supporting the rural economy by showing a willingness to buy farm produce at higher prices. While urban consumers are seen blaming farmers for wasting precious commodities like milk by spilling them out on the road. The images of farmers spilling milk from tankers have resulted in creating negativity about the farmers’ agitation among the urban class.
Three years ago Maharashtra’s firebrand farmers leader Raju Shetti and Sababhau Khot were seen doing whirlwind tours of Maharashtra speaking about the alleged misrule of the Congress and NCP-led UPA government. Lots of promises of delivering the best to the farmers and helping them tide over economic crisis were made.
But today after three years of BJP-led NDA rule, farmers feel that nothing of what was promised is being delivered. The rift between Raju Shetti and Khot is absolutely evident. One is seen enjoying the fruits of power sitting in Maharashtra’s Cabinet while the other is agitating on the roads. In all this somewhere the perception among farmers is that their moment is getting politicised and they cannot trust any leader anymore.
As a result of this previous experience, farmers have now launched their own agitation and the dangerous part is that since it has no concrete leadership to guide it, the agitation now seems rudderless and out of control.
A firm belief among farmers seems to be that the government has been protecting the interest of the urban consumers and has not allowed prices of the farm produce to rise by putting artificial control on them. This belief among a large section of the rural population (farmers and their supporters) and the perception among the other side that farmers are holding the state to ransom; is now perhaps pushing the state of Maharashtra towards a social urban versus rural divide.
This is very much evident in the social media disputes that both sides are participating in.
It’s time for political and social leaders to mediate between the farmers and the government in order to bring peace and some sense to both sides.
Discussion between farmer leaders and government must continue and solutions must be found quickly or else the state will continue to pay a heavy price.