Addressing reporters after a meeting to deliberate how to engage in talks with the Centre, farmer union leaders demanded that the Centre repeal the three new farm laws and that MSP be guaranteed
After days of staging a protest at Delhi’s Singhu and Tikri borders, farm leaders on Sunday demanded that the Centre must repeal the three new farm laws as they are “anti-farmer and pro-corporate”, and that MSP should be guaranteed.
Addressing reporters after a meeting to deliberate how to engage in talks with the Centre, farmer union leaders rejected the Centre’s offer to move to Delhi’s Burari ground and said that they will block five main entry points into the National Capital, as part of their protest.
After the meeting, Surjeet Phul, president of BKU Krantikari was quoted as saying, “We’ve decided that we’ll never go to Burari Park as we got proof that it’s an open jail. Delhi Police told Uttarakhand Farmer Association President that they’ll take them to Jantar Mantar but instead locked them at Burari Park.”
He added, “Instead of going to open jail in Burari, we’ve decided that we will gherao Delhi by blocking 5 main entry points to Delhi. We’ve got 4 months ration with us, so nothing to worry. Our Operations Committee will decide everything.”
The Times of India also quoted farmer union leaders as saying that talks (on the contentious farm laws) have been “futile so far”.
According to the report, Phul further said, “We’ve decided that we won’t allow any political party leader to speak on our stage, be it Congress, BJP, AAP or other parties. Our committee will allow other organisations, who are supporting us, to speak if they follow our rules.”
Additionally, PTI quoted Gurnam Singh Chadhoni, Haryana unit president for the Bhartiya Kisan Union as saying, “We do not accept the condition of their (govt) proposal. We are ready to talk but will not accept any condition now.”
Darshan Pal, Punjab president of Krantikari Kisan Union, added, “The government has invited us to talk with conditions. The environment should be created for a conversation. We will not talk if there are any conditions”.
“If the government is serious about addressing the demands of the farmers, it should stop laying down conditions, should stop assuming that the dialogue can be about an explanation to farmers about the benefits of the Acts,” said a representative of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella body of farmers’ groups.
Joginder Singh, president of Bhartiya Kisan Ektagrah, “We are sitting at the borders. Our demand is that the government take back the farm laws and we will not accept anything less than that”.
With many roads and entry points being blocked after three consecutive days of a sit-in protest, Union home minister Amit Shah on Saturday addressed the issue and asked the farmers to shift to the Burari ground. He added that the Centre was “ready to hold discussions” with them as soon as they move to the designated place.
A delegation of the farmers has been invited for a discussion on 3 December, he said, adding that now that some of their unions have demanded that talks be held immediately, the central government is ready to do so as soon as the protesters shift to the ground in Burari.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Shah said the new farm laws were “meant for the welfare of farmers” and called their agitation apolitical.
Speaking to reporters, he said, “The new farm laws are meant for the welfare of farmers. After a long time the farmer is going to come out of a locked system. Whoever wants to oppose it politically let them do it. I have never said the farmers protest is political and would never say (that it is political).”
Thousands of farmers continued their protest against the Centre’s farm laws on Sunday, after camping overnight at Delhi’s Singhu and Tikri borders.
The number of protesting farmers doubled on Saturday as more joined from states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Around 500 organisations are part of the protest at Delhi’s borders.
“There is a crucial meeting today to decide future course of action. We will stay put till then and decide accordingly. In any situation, we will not call off the protest till our demands are met,” Brij Singh, one of the farmers at Singhu border had told PTI on Sunday morning.
“We will discuss on how to engage in talks with the Centre. We are ready for talks with the centre only if they invite us for the same,” Ruldu Singh, state president of Punjab Kisan Union was quoted as saying by NDTV.
Despite Shah’s appeal to move to the designated ground on Saturday, farmers decided to stay put at the Singhu and Tikri borders, demanding to be allowed to protest at Jantar Mantar or to gather at the Ramlila ground instead.
NDTV quoted a farm leader as saying, “We will not move from here (Singhu Border) and continue our fight. Burari protest ground is more like a jail. Thousands of farmers have come from Punjab and Haryana to join the protest. We will not return home.”
“Protests happen at Ramlila ground, then why should we go to Nirankari Bhawan, a private facility? We will stay put here today,” Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait was quoted as saying by ANI.
However, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who has extended support to the protesting farmers since before the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march began, urged the farmers to accept Shah’s appeal to shift to the designated place of protest.
He also termed Shah’s offer to hold discussions at the earliest, as the “best in the interest of the farming community” and the nation at large.
The farmers have come prepared for a long haul, their vehicles loaded with rations, utensils, quilts and blankets for the cold and equipped with even charging points for their phones.
After a restive Friday that saw police using teargas shells, water cannons and multi-layer barriers to block the protesters and some farmers pelting stones and breaking barricades in their determination to push through as part of their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, Saturday was quiet.
But the tension persisted with restless crowds milling around the city’s edges and beyond and settling down from another night out in the cold.
Though there was no clear roadmap, the farmers belonging to multiple groups, appeared clear in their resolve, some saying that they would not disperse till the laws were repealed and others that would ensure their voices are heard, PTI reported.
Amid the nationwide farmer protests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that agriculture reforms “have not only freed farmers from various shackles but have also bestowed on them new rights and opportunities”.
Addressing his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio programme, Modi said the recent agriculture reforms have begun mitigating the troubles of farmers in a short span of time as he cited the example of a Maharashtra farmer who used the provisions of the new laws to get the money promised to him by a trader.
“Since ages, these demands of farmers which at one point of time or the other all political parties had promised to them, have now been fulfilled. After deep deliberations, Parliament recently passed farm reform laws,” he said.
“These reforms have not only freed the farmers from various shackles, but have also given them new rights and opportunities. In such a short span of time, these rights have started reducing the problems of farmers,” he said.
His remarks come at a time when thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, have dug in their heels at Delhi’s border points and hundreds have gathered at the city’s Burari ground, united in their determination to hold protests against the new farm laws.
With inputs from agencies
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