Scores of Indian social media users have criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for attending a laser show on a river cruise in the pilgrimage city of Varanasi on Monday evening even as farmer protests continue to simmer in the capital, Delhi.
The PM was visiting the holy city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges to commemorate the Hindu festival of Dev Deepawali. As per Hindu religious scriptures, Gods and Goddesses descend upon the ancient city of Varanasi (formerly Kashi) to mark the occasion, which falls on a full moon at the start of the winter season.
Varanasi also happens to be Prime Minister Modi's parliamentary constituency.
Towards Monday evening, Modi took to a cruise and witnessed a laser show to commemorate the festival. However, several Indian social media users questioned the hidden message behind the prime minister's gesture, as they pointed towards ongoing demonstrations by farmers.
Some think the PM was insensitive to post this when his party-police are cracking down on farmers on Delhi borders. That's not the point. This is messaging -- a message to both his supporters and the protesters. https://t.co/ZLfGi3lUVb— Stanly Johny (@johnstanly) December 1, 2020
He has time to see the laser show but no time to meet with the #Farmers. This is happens when dictatorial rulers are busy with luxurious Travel. The problems of common people of the country are meaningless to him.#FarmersBill #FarmBill2020 #FarmersProtests #ShameOnModi pic.twitter.com/fISWZ1Rum1— Amninder Singh (@SinghAmninder10) December 1, 2020
In Delhi farmer's are protesting the farmer's law... But ji enjoying the music and laser show... Wat a great PM ji https://t.co/bBMLxuBYdp— Mr.பரத் (@Bharathkumar063) December 1, 2020
A section of netizens, however, supported Prime Minister Modi and lashed out at others for "politicising" his trip.
Politics added to the dev deepotsav, as usual earthen lamps lit all along the ghats of ganga as per traditions. PM Modi ji while enjoying the music and laser show. Some politics to opposition's falsehood propaganda on farmers protest.— sridharamurthy (@sridharamurthy7) December 1, 2020
PM Modi Backs Farm Laws
While thousands of farmers from the state of Punjab have laid siege to the main entry and exit points to Delhi since last week in a bid to pressure the federal government to rescind the new laws, Prime Minister Modi has doubled down on the laws.
Addressing an event during his day-long Varanasi visit, Modi took a critical note of the ongoing farmer protests in the Indian capital, describing the farmers as "misguided".
"Earlier, protests used to happen based on facts. Now, people are spreading lies (about the farm related ordinances) to rile up farmers. People are speculating and farmers are protesting…", said Prime Minister Modi.
नए कृषि सुधारों से किसान को अब नए विकल्प भी मिले हैं और छल से, धोखे से कानूनी संरक्षण भी मिला है।— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 30, 2020
अगर किसान को कोई ऐसा खरीदार मिल जाए, जो सीधा खेत से उपज उठाए, जो ट्रांसपोर्ट से लेकर लॉजिस्टिक्स का हर प्रबंध करे और बेहतर कीमत दे, तो क्या किसानों को इसकी आजादी नहीं मिलनी चाहिए? pic.twitter.com/gr7JhutAlS
"The farmers of the country should reap the benefits of an unrestricted market and advanced technology", Modi stated in his address, listing the potential benefits of the farm-related ordinances.
One of the new laws, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, allows farmers to sell their produce outside government-regulated Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) zones. Protesting farmers fear being short-charged by private players once APMCs lose their power.
Besides the aforementioned legislation, farmers have also demanded the withdrawal of two other laws, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, and an amendment in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. The protesters have also called upon the government to withdraw the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020, fearing that it would spell the end of subsidised electricity for agriculture.