Mahendra Tikait once ruled over Western UP and in fact all of North Indian Agrarian Politics! Head of strong Baliyan Khap- one of the strongest and largest communities within closely knit Jats, he also had the base for that!
I still remember his Boat Club rally that brought Rajiv Gandhi government to its knees (Boat Club was made a restricted zone only after that rally).
I remember how even my Congressi father who loved Gandhi family till the end had immense respect for him! “Akhir me ham bhi kisan hi hain na beta” he would say when I would read “Maya ” the famous political magazine of the times and ask about Tikait!
He ruled over farmers politics because he was dead honest- and secular to core. For him politics was for the farmers, by the farmers on agrarian issues.
He would defend the minorities’ rights with gusto. In a very famous case he led a struggle against a Muslim girl’s abduction until she was found. His Mahapanchayats would invite Muslims farmers as well with good numbers. He never let anyone turn the villages in the area into a communal warzone despite repeated riots in some of the cities- Meerut in particular. He would lead peace marches without fear- would ask Jats and almost order Baliyan Khap to protect minorities in their villages.
I also remember his several rallies in Lucknow in early 1990s- forcing the governments to accede to his demands every single time.
Then the political landscape of India started changing. One mistake of Rajiv Gandhi- the Shah Bano verdict followed by another Ram Mandir Shilanyas changed it all- and forever, par ahora!
Though his influence had started weaning by the end of 90s thanks to both- Kamandal and Mandal with Hindutva politics weakening farmers unity and demands of reservation for Jats adding to the growing divide- he stayed powerful and secular till the end in 2011!
That gave an even bigger space to BJP to expand in the Jat Belt as it is called!
Tikait brothers could have stopped it- perhaps- had they stayed true to their fathers’ vision. Unfortunately, their silence, almost I mean, on increasing communalization of the area began the end! Suddenly- Muslims who used to be an equal part of their support base started ditching them, and rightly so. Rakesh Tikait’s participation in the infamous 2013 MahaPanchayat that led to Muzaffarnagar riots killing Muslims and Hindus both, almost finished them as leaders of all Jats! Muslims, too, had no reason to stay with them anymore.
This also led to decreasing influence of Jat Politics in the region- and BJP did make a show of it by making a non-Jat chief minister of Haryana after it swept the state. This followed by the electoral loss of Ajit Singh and rout of the Rashtriya Lok Dal and things had come a full circle.
Tikait Brothers did have a go at revival during Jat Quota Stir in February 2016 when BJP betrayed Jats on its poll promise of reservation for them- and brutally cracked upon the movement against that- killing 30 Jats in police firing! Yet, they failed to galvanize on that and bring the Jats and agrarian issues to the centre of the politics. There were rather whispers against them of colluding with BJP later and tacitly supporting them in 2019 elections!
Emboldened by recapturing Haryana even if by a brink despite non Jat CM and Feb 2016 repression, perhaps, BJP took them as done and dusted with. It’s sweep of Jat Lands in 2019 Lok Sabha polls made it delude into having finished Jat politics altogether!
It had forgotten, though, that Tikait brothers still had a lot of support and goodwill. Being head of Baliyan Khap had kept at least those numbers intact. All they needed was an entry point again. BJP gave them that with ill though Farm Bills intended to rob farmers to pay their masters.
Stunned with massive resistance it had never thought of, it miscalculated again and attacked them even more! Terming farmers, mostly Jats and Sikhs anti national, calling them terrorists was way too much to chew.
Then came the threats of brutal repression- and the defiant tears!
Rakesh Tikait roared through his tears: We will not court arrest. They may kill us. They may shoot us. I won’t leave. Those who want to leave can leave.
This was the first time in my memory of Indian Politics when protests have been reduced to “Court Arrest Drama” followed by victory calls, a few hours in some Police Stations and back home!
The tables were turned. Almost 10,000 troops in riot gear sent to evacuate Ghazipur protest site got swept off by those tears! Farmers across UP and Haryana were stirred by the tears too: they started for Delhi in the night itself! 30,000 of them have already reached!
BJP governments- both at centre and in UP along with Godi Media flexing muscles till then were suddenly stunned, not knowing what to do of this! They did what cowards do- they ran away!
UP government came true on its promise of evacuating Ghazipur Protest Site. Just that in reverse: It evacuated the site of its troops! Farmers are still pitched there!
This is a historic moment for the Tikait Brothers- of correcting their mistakes and bringing agrarian issues back to the mainstream politics. They can do this only by going their father’s way- uniting farmers using the Agri issues as vaccine against BJP virus by uniting all farmers, specially Muslims!
Would they be able to do it? Only time will tell!