Hindustan Times (East UP)

An open letter to farmers: It’s time to suspend the agitation

- Gopalkrish­na Gandhi Gopalkrish­na Gandhi is a former administra­tor, diplomat and governor The views expressed are personal

Iwrite as a senior citizen, on behalf of them, among others, who are exposed to the vicious second surge of the virus. Those who take precaution­s with great care also get afflicted because of the sheer load around us of those who are not taking any care, and being callously careless.

I also write on behalf of seniors among you, in your homes, and the countless in the areas around where your massed protests are located — their vulnerabil­ity to the virus has increased many times over as a result of the great convergenc­e. The elderly and those who, for livelihood reasons, have to venture out, are now at great risk, even fatal risk. This risk is far greater than it was last year.

Your being massed at protest sites around the national capital for the greater part of a year has drawn internatio­nal attention, acclaim. The spirit behind your protest has been spontaneou­sly sympathise­d with, even by those who may not agree with all your demands. I am among those who believe that justice is on your side. I cannot reconcile to your interests being compromise­d in any way.

But I have this appeal to make to you, great farming-soldiers, soldier-farmers: Recognisin­g the peril of the virus and the grim fact that your agitation is unwittingl­y fuelling the virus, please suspend your agitation now.

Surely, it cannot be your intention to cause any innocent person the slightest harm. But by staying massed as you are, with members of the protest groups returning to the villages and then coming back, without realising it, you are becoming accomplice­s to the risk. That is something that you do not, cannot, want.

I have appealed to the government, in the interests of public health, to scrap the three acts you are objecting to. Or at least to suspend them in toto until the virus is brought under control. But I have not had even an acknowledg­ment. I have also appealed to valued friends who are part of your agitation, to persuade you to suspend the agitation until the virus is brought under control. This too has not received (except from the tireless P Sainath) notice or acknowledg­ment.

Hence, this open appeal. The virus is India’s public enemy number one at this moment. It is vicious, murderous. Just see the pictures of those who have died or been bereaved by Covid-19 deaths. They could be you or me, your or my loved ones.

The three farm acts are at this juncture, less, far less, of a menace. I am not saying the acts are not to be opposed; far from it. I am only saying that there is such a thing as a wrong time even for doing a right thing. This is not the time to converge in hundreds around a city where the virus is dancing the dance of death-bycrowding. I am not asking you to stop it or end the agitation. Only to dismantle its present form and keep it dismantled until the virus is completely under control.

Holding mammoth election rallies, procession­s and door-to-door campaigns has been a great folly. Exposing hundreds of thousands to the virus at the Kumbh mela has been another monumental wrong. It should not be said of you, great and wise kisans, that you have been as callous, as uncaring, as insensitiv­e in the battle against the virus.

Please suspend the agitation and announce a return of the protesters to their villages, to get vaccinated. You will thereby earn the gratitude of the whole country and the admiration of all those across the world who are watching your stamina and your zeal for justice. Do not misunderst­and me, dear fellow-citizens, when I say that the wave of public sympathy stands in danger of waning if the perception gains ground that you do not care if the virus spreads.

I know you do care, for you are passionate human beings, loving parents and doting children. And above all, patriots of the first order, many of you being ex-jawans and retired officers of the armed forces yourselves.

In great pride of your courage and your common sense,

Jai Hind.

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