Repealing Farm Laws and the National Security Enigma – A Critical Assessment

| Viswapramod C
  • It is perceived through several top sources in the Indian Intelligence that the Khalistani elements had been systematically interjected through moles and sleeper cells in the anti farm laws agitation
  • The Union government to its credit defended and strongly stood by these bold reform measures that were path breaking in India’s agricultural economy.
  • Interestingly, a huge number of farm labourers in the peak of these protest movements, were found to be actively working on the agricultural fields.
  • Any reason citing a national security threat can’t be taken at face value, because if the political class makes up it’s mind it can certainly bring any situation under control.
  • It is quite clear that this is a miserable failure of the government’s strategic communication to defend these laws and navigate through the hurdles that stopped the implementation of these laws. 


Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his recent address to the nation announced the withdrawal of the historic farm laws, which had the scope to bring about significant reforms in the agricultural sector. The exact reasons for this is unknown, but a lot of speculation regarding its electoral calculations affecting states of Punjab, Haryana and western UP is being made by several political analysts across the country. But this article focuses on a more serious National Security concern that is being cited by a couple of commentators in the public domain. That is the resurgence of the Khalistan movement in the state of Punjab. 

For almost a decade now, the factions of the Sikh community in India and abroad, especially from UK and Canada, are showing a radicalised-separatist tendency, with absolute hatred to India by consistently working against the Indian interests abroad. It is almost quite clear that these separatist elements have the political backing of Pakistan’s establishment and the ISI. It is perceived through several top sources in the Indian Intelligence that the Khalistani elements had been systematically interjected through moles and sleeper cells in the anti farm laws agitation that was being carried out since the previous year. It is a well-known fact that these separatist elements were the ones that were responsible for the republic day violence that took place on 26th January 2021. After that though the government held several rounds of talks with the farmers organisations, the negotiations failed to reach any progressive conclusion as there was a deadlock between the government and farmers organisations on the very issue of the existence of these legislations. And the farmers organisations continued to carry out their protests after their failed negotiations with the government, hoping to pressurise the government to bring out some relief measures. 

The Union government to its credit defended and strongly stood by these bold reform measures that were path breaking in India’s agricultural economy. In fact these farm laws had also received enormous support from many economists, opinion makers, and prominent public intellectuals in the civil society. Every well educated and well informed person could see it’s merits and progressive measures bringing about radical changes aiming to increase the farmers income. But all of a sudden, “the government set the cat amongst the pigeons” and decided to withdraw these bold reform measures. The post facto analysis tells us that the government had not engaged in a proper consultative process with the farmers groups, opposition parties and its allies explaining, arguing, convincing and bringing about a common consensus on the benefits of this law. It is quite clear that this is a miserable failure of the government’s strategic communication to defend these laws and navigate through the hurdles that stopped the implementation of these laws. 

Getting back to the Khalistani issue, we need to make a clear assessment as to what extent this threat was simmering and escalating. To understand this, we need to examine the much ignored factor, which is how many people were involved in these farm protests that were largely dominated by the Sikh farm leaders.

The evidence provided by Capt Amarinder Singh on a TV interview revealed that in the past one year, thousands of rifles, pistols and guns were smuggled across the border from Pakistan.

According to a source, commercial satellite imagery was constantly conducted over the regions where protests were held in the borders of Delhi from Punjab Haryana and western UP, even at the peak of the protest period in early 2021, not more than 50000 people were present in the protest sites. Occasionally about 2 lakh people would gather only for photo ops. Interestingly, a huge number of farm labourers in the peak of these protest movements, were found to be actively working on the agricultural fields. This shows that the protest movement definitely was politically motivated and consisted of a small minority of wealthy farm owners. International funding from the UK and Canada, from the Khalistani sympathizers was provided in order to sustain this movement. The Pakistani ISI had also mobilized resources in order to fuel the communal tensions in Punjab. 

The evidence provided by Capt Amrinder Singh on a TV interview revealed that in the past one year, thousands of rifles, pistols and guns were smuggled across the border from Pakistan. Several Pakistani drones were also detected, which were conducting aerial surveillance and a couple of drones had also fallen down in the Indian territory. 

There are also all kinds of theories, speculations and war gaming that is taking place in war wherein, the scenario is being presented of the dark ages of 1990s in Punjab, when the khalistan insurgency was at its peak and communal violence had almost become a norm. The expectation is that the same internal security nightmare would repeat itself in the coming years. From all these factors it is quite clear that these are imminent National Security concerns. 

But what does the knee jerk reaction of withdrawing these laws indicate? Has the government conceded to the pressure of these protests that brought in with it, the khalistani element? Or has the government reset it’s policy priorities to meet it’s concerns of electoral politics? Therefore what really has changed between the 1990’s and contemporary India.? Hasn’t our law and order machinery made any progress in order to resolve such internal security strifes? Is our criminal justice system incapable and incompetent of dealing with the prosecution trials of mass crimes committed in such communal environments? The answers to these questions are also as puzzled and chaotic as these questions are? Probably no national security expert or strategic scholar can give any clear answer to this question. But however, the issue here is not about how strong or weak our law enforcement mechanisms are. The real question is about the political will, and public policy decision making ability and capacity of our political class. 

But what does the knee jerk reaction of withdrawing these laws indicate? Has the government conceded to the pressure of these protests that brought in with it, the khalistani element? Or has the government reset it’s policy priorities to meet it’s concerns of electoral politics?

Most informed people have a sense of understanding that though our law and order mechanism is performing at a mediocre pace, it is certainly capable of handling, controlling and dismantling such internal security turbulence, as we successfully did in Punjab under the leadership of prominent police officials such as KPS Gill. Indian armed forces are also quite resilient in handling national security situations though we are not equipped with the first World technology and training mechanisms. So the question of internal security situation being worsened cannot be logical excuse because, no matter how disorganised, corrupt or rouge our police force is, there are a lot of officials and foot soldiers who work with national integrity and resolve, and just by clear stern orders of the political establishment, they are capable of bringing a law and order situation into control, and they possess the efficiency in eradicating the anti social elements completely. 

Therefore any reason citing a national security threat can’t be taken at face value, because if the political class makes up it’s mind it can certainly bring any situation under control. Or even if we assume that the government is engaging in committing the crimes of omission and not in crimes of commission (omission is the act of omitting while commission is a sending or mission) it still accounts for policy malignancy and failure of the execution of the public administrative apparatus by the government. The reason why I say this is because the government had other options to bring about this reforms, ie agriculture is present in both state and concurrent lists of Indian constitution where the state government has greater powers in matters related to agriculture; taking this provision into consideration, the Union government could have empowered the states to enact these farm bills as per their convenience and state specific modifications. But unfortunately this did not happen. 

This leaves us in a disarray of uncertainties and even inviting a prospective anarchy. Because, already we are seeing that the leadership of the farm movement is unwilling to call off the protest and is demanding for the statutory provisions of the MSP ( Minimum Support Price). There is no rational or logical case for a sudden retreat of the khalistani extremism that is on a steady rise in Punjab. It’s well known that bringing about long term economic reforms in a democracy as large and complex as India, is a herculean task and needs a strong government with a Stern resolve and spine to bear through the possible backlash and fallout that such reforms causes. There farm laws were a hope of a strategic breakthrough in India’s agricultural sector, but now with its repeal it has gone into a cold storage when it’s point of return is quite onerous.

The same modus operandi which was activated in the CAA NCC protests to undermine India’s national security seems to have established a victory score over farm laws.

It is now an open secret that the current ruling establishment has started nurturing an ominous nature of appeasement politics wherein they are trying to reach out to the Sikh extremists by conceding to their demands indirectly through the repeal of the farm laws. Voices from the principal opposition team of these reforms have now indicated covertly through their careful messaging that they know how to bring this government on its knees. The same modus operandi which was activated in the CAA NCC protests to undermine India’s national security seems to have established a victory score over farm laws. We can predict that this exact model of backlash and anarchism will be unleashed towards the government in their future course of reform agendas. Will the government withdraw all the legislation because of protests and citing national security reasons? In that case national security in itself will lose its criticality. 

PV Narasimha Rao lost the elections in 1996 following the pathbreaking economic reforms introduced by his government. We have to take cognizance of the fact that PM Modi does not have any substantial political opposition, and given the fact that he is running one of the most powerful PMO’s in India’s independent history, the expectation of strong resolve to push through such bold and strenuous reforms is quite natural. However, there is a speculation that the government might consider reintroducing these reform bills in a modified format in future, because several sources in the government are suggesting that a national committee will be set up to review these reform bills, but there is no guarantee of a time frame within which this could come into force. 

We hope that the government will not cause a disappointment to this country by taking a retreat on its economic reforms in the future. If a country needs to progress towards becoming a major power in the world, the key ingredient responsible for it would be it’s economic resources, without which the tag of a “Third world country” and a “developing country” can never be withered away. 

(The author has a MA in political science from Bangalore University and is pursuing MA in international relations from Annamalai University. Views expressed are author’s own)

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1 Comment

  • R C Purohit

    The fact is mobs in India are stronger then democracy, government, I am sure in the next 2/3 months ISI supported Dharma will start to repeal CAA and 370, considering the militant elements in Muslims and their influence throughout India, the Modi government will yield to them.

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