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Dr. Ambedkar and Farmer’s Movement

‘Ours is an agricultural country and our soil is exhausted.’

-       Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Volume 2, 130.

This suite of works on paper represents two powerful figurations—of the body that tills the land and its tools of sustenance. Using repetition as a device for remembrance, Vikrant traces the essence of the labouring body on the field. Holding the plough, the shovel and the sickle, the richly defined figure of the farmer stands with bare feet on sparse, dispersive land with small strokes alluding to fields. The body of the farmer, sketched with depth and rigorous strokes, puts one foot ahead of the other—marching forward. The works are inspired by the historic 2020-2021 farmer’s movement which culminated in a momentous march and sit-in by farmers and farming unions from across the country on the borders of New Delhi and succeeded in preventing the corporatisation of agriculture intended by the Farm Bills.

Who is the farmer? In Cultivator’s Whipcord, Jyotiba Phule describes the systematic and intergenerational oppression by Brahmins of castes which comprise those who till the land. In Vikrant’s drawings, the farmer is also agitator, leader, and educator, with the visage of each marching body clouded by icons of their implements, their handmade vessels and baskets, and an intestinal cord that unites each body with the other. Vikrant is attentive to the humble objects which support the conduct of life and to the phenomenology of labour—its accrual in folds of skin, its metabolic and nutritional destinies, and its impact on the composition of life. Ambedkar appears in these drawings as teacher and leader, marching with and towards a futurity that is equitable and just. Shifting from the monochromatic visions of revolutionary march to the vibrant greens of harvest, Dr. Ambedkar and Farmer’s Movement centres the figure of the farmer as the cornerstone of progress.

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