If the preface of 2020 – 2021 Indian farmers’ protest is clear, you will have no difficulty understanding the novel ‘Land of Mine’ by Saurav Dutt. The novel explores the chaos of the crowd that gathered by millions and camped at the borders of the capital, Delhi, with dozens dying from heat, cold, and Covid.
The novel didn’t follow any specific timeline but it conveys the inconvenience of weather through its characters. The movement that had been active for two years, braved heat, cold, and Covid waves, become one of the biggest challenges for the Indian government. The book highlights that majority of the crowd came from Punjab, it was evident throughout the story with characters like Sukhcharan, Kulwant, Sarbat, and Labh. As crowd gathers and watches the drama unfold, even the story had built an invisible queue and crowd of characters, they aren’t lined up, but move forward as the events swirled up.
“If there was no social media, if there was no foreign reportage, if there weren’t people like Garrick and I to ensure voices are heard – then your government would continue to crush these protests. They hoped they would go away, and now it’s been over a year, past the hot summer, the chill of winter, they’re still here. And you and your superior are going mad trying to figure out why they’re not going home.”
Right at the beginning, the preface from Satwant Singh Johal, a Sikh activist from England, states why the farmers went against the government, it sheds light on those three unwanted laws.
The farmers were protesting against the government’s introduction of three laws that loosened rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce, rules which have protected them from the free market for decades. Farm unions said these laws would leave farmers vulnerable to big companies and destroy their livelihoods.
What did the Laws Offer?
One of the biggest changes was that farmers were allowed to sell their produce at a market price directly to private players – agricultural businesses, supermarket chains, and online grocers. Most Indian farmers currently sell the majority of their produce at government-controlled wholesale markets or Mandis at assured floor prices (also known as minimum support price or MSP).
The reforms, at least on paper, gave farmers the option of selling outside of this so-called “Mandi system”. But the protesters said the laws would weaken the farmers and allow private players to dictate prices and control their fate. They said the MSP was keeping many farmers going and without it, many of them will struggle to survive.
The title Land of Mine is apt as the movement was reckoned as a victory for farmers and also as a powerful example of how mass protests could still successfully challenge the government.
Sarbat who was wasting his life and risking the wellbeing of his wife and children by consuming drug was suspiciously killed in the protest. However, he came with an intention to escape from his responsibilities. His death went silent in the novel, but it looked the work of the police to scare others. Many died in the protest by tractor convey, by police beating, and Covid. The novel didn’t sneak in the aftermath consequences. But reports said that the government will compensate for the deaths.
One thing is surely true and well covered in the novel is that the government and its allied forces tried to stop, trample, and label them as Khalistanis and Pakistanis and charged criminal cases. The farmers tried to march into Delhi but were stopped by police at the city’s borders. Since then, they had stayed at the edge of the city against all odds –braving scorching heat, a bitter winter, and even a deadly second wave of Covid.
Land of Mine didn’t come as a complete coverage on farm laws and protesting farmers. It rather reports the fight for freedom and right to be respected as a proud farmer of India.
|Title||Land of Mine|
|The Asian Review Rating||8 out of 10|
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