As Prime Minister Narendra Modi rounded up his unscheduled visit to a gurdwara in Delhi on Sunday, where he knelt in respect and offered his prayers, a sermon put forth this advice: “You may be a religious person, attend Satsangs (prayer meets) and do Seva (service), but there must be changes in your thinking that truly help better society.”
The PM visited the iconic Gurudwara Rakabganj in Delhi at a time when his government is confronting huge anger among farmers, many of them from Punjab, who have been protesting against new laws on how and where their produce can be sold. The sermon was being recited in the background by the granthi or ceremonial reader in Punjabi.
The Prime Minister’s visit, which was organised without any special traffic or other arrangements for him, lasted about 20 minutes.
Farmers have blocked several key entry points to Delhi for nearly a month now, arguing that the new reforms, which the PM has assured will benefit them, will in fact serve big corporates who will end up dominating the markets after they are deregulated. They want the laws to be withdrawn and a new legal commitment to be made to the minimum support price that they get for growing crops like wheat and rice.
Talks between the government and representatives of farmer unions have failed despite several lengthy rounds. Last week, the Supreme Court suggested a committee be set up of farmer representatives and ministers to review the new reforms. The court also said the protests can continue for now and asked the government to consider not implementing the new laws till the matter is resolved.
During the agitation, protesters say at least 29 of them have died, many on account of being out in the open during a severe cold wave. Last week, a Sikh priest from Haryana died by suicide, said the local police; a note left by him said he could not stand by and “tolerate the injustice” being meted out to farmers.
“I felt extremely blessed,” tweeted PM Modi after the visit this morning. On Friday, he conducted a huge outreach to farmers through a televised speech from Madhva Pradesh in which he said they are being misled by the opposition into misunderstanding how important and beneficial the reforms will be.