thousand of Indian farmers staged a year-long protest against three farm acts that were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020. They feared that the laws — Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020; and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 — would lead to an abolition of the minimum support price (MSP) guaranteed by the government on select crops, and leave them at the mercy of big corporates.
In December 2021, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) called off the protest, one of the biggest in recent times, following the repealing of the laws by the government. Over the course of the year-long protest, over 670 farmer protestors lost their lives, according to the farmers’ body.
To aid the families who have lost a loved one to the protests by raising money, and to cement the protests in history, the Farmers’ Protest NFT Collection is launched with several women, photographers, filmmakers and visual across India coming together to contribute their artists on-ground work covering the protest.
It is a living collection and will continue to grow as time passes, with more contributors participating. “The farmers’ protest has to be the largest and arguably one of the longest civil disobedience protests that contemporary India has seen; and it ended with a victory for the farmers. This undeniable fact must remain unsullied by politicians for their personal gain,” curator Archit Malhotra told indianexpress.com.
Curator Terence-Hari Fernandes added that the protest was a fight for democracy. “It was a moment in history that should be and needs to be remembered in its rightful context. The 21st century and the proliferation of the internet are rife with misinformation and lies. Art, when coupled with our fight for freedomhas the power to take messaging and allow it to live on in the minds of the people for generations,” he said, on the idea behind the collection.
Several contributors including journalist Saba Naqvi, filmmaker Vidhaat Raman and photographer Akshay Bhoan have made their on-ground works during the protests available in the collection.
“These photos are close to my heart because I was capturing a historic movement,Naqvi said. “I covered the farmers’ protest diligently visiting all the three sites on Delhi’s border. I spent the last day of 2020 or New Year’s Eve at the Singhu border.”
She told indianexpress.com that the NFT collection captures some moments of “one of the largest and greatest people’s protests of recent times”.
For Bhoan, it was an “act of solidarity with the farmers”. “Inspired by the determination and resilience of the farmers, my work pays homage to the protests we have to witness in line with imagining a future of the community, free of boundaries and exploitation.”
Raman, who was intimately involved in the life of the farmers at the borders, wanted to document this personally transformative experience. “I documented all these images during another assignment involving the farmer’s protest over the course of a year. I feel like I have a vast collection of endearing moments from the protest, things that weren’t shown in the mainstream coverage of the protest. The monolithic picture that regular news painted of the protest was far removed from the relatable and human struggle that the farmers faced every day – which I was exposed to,” he told indianexpress.comon his decision to contribute his works to the collection.
To aid the affected families, the collection is partnered with Atam Pargas, an NGO that has qualitatively documented the families who have suffered losses, and proceeds from the same of the NFTs will go towards supporting the families who have lost a loved one to the year-long protest.
“The Collection is currently being sold as NFTs. The proceeds from the sales go to an NGO called Atam Pargas to aid them in the incredible work they’ve been doing to support families who have lost their loved ones to the protest. The raised funds from the collection will be used to help these families get back on their feet and support them,” Fernandes shared.
Not just that, the buyers of the NFTs will also be given an opportunity to talk to the families in a sensitive and sensitive manner. Fernandes said that the ability to connect between individuals is bolstered by the utility of technology by people with good intentions behind them. “It also allows for the buyers to extend their own support to the families beyond the funds as well as offer a medium of transparent and level of accountability.”
Malhotra added: “For full transparency, we are going to conduct video call sessions with them for our supporters and for anyone buying an NFT, we can arrange for a special call with the affected families.”
The curators further apprised that the entire collection will be made available in a one-of-a-kind ‘Metaverse Museum’, situated in a digital field, once all the pieces are sold out. It is meant for the general public to view the NFTs and understand the context of the historical event.
“The metaverse museum will be a farm-field that you can digitally walk around and see our coverage of the ground reality of the protest. Essentially anyone with an internet connection and a laptop or phone will be able to visit it for free. We plan on doing physical exhibitions as well in the future where the same digital assets can be projected,” Malhotra explained.
Stepping away from exhibiting the collection in a conventional manner, the curators decided to employ the use of blockchain technology because of its “immutability”. “The immutability of the blockchain helps keep this alive – neither I nor a contributor nor the government can delete this once the media is minted as an NFT. This was a crucial point in keeping this history of the farmers’ protest intact,” he added.
Elaborating further, Fernandes said, “Blockchain technology is also decentralised and as such, the validity and existence of the Collection, in its entirety, is always in the public record.”
According to the contributors, art, literature and activism are significant mediums to capture historic struggles. “Throughout history, any intense peoples’ movement has sparked a treasure of inspired work – further inspiring later generations to follow righteous paths. The more inspiration there is around, the stronger the resolution shall be for the next generations,” Raman said.
Naqvi believes that this is how “we create new motifs, cultural norms and narratives”.
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