One year later: Reflections on the farmers’ protest in India

Aarti Sethi


Beginning November 2020, over two hundred thousand farmers have gathered in a prolonged sit-in on the borders of New Delhi. The immediate impetus for the protests was the passage of three laws that ease the entry of agribusiness into the agricultural sector. The farmers’ protests began eight months after mass protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, enacted in December 2019. This amendment to India’s Citizenship Act disbars Muslims from neighboring countries from seeking citizenship on the grounds of religious persecution. In this essay I explore some themes as they resonate across these two movements as they relate to a fundamental crisis of postcolonial nationhood. I argue that these protests have interrupted Hindu nationalism’s narrative by forging a new kind of caring crowd in which embodied acts of care create an ethical vision of citizenship. Popular politics materialized in these movements may be viewed as ongoing plebiscites on the neoliberal consensus in contemporary India.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/716931