Farmers' protest: After Bharat Bandh, Amit Shah's meeting with protesters yields inconclusive outcome
The bandh received widespread support on Tuesday as protesters from Opposition parties and several other organisations held symbolic ‘chakka jam’ demonstrations across the country.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s meeting with farmers on Tuesday — the day when day a 'Bharat Bandh' observed by farmers to press their demand affected life in some states — remained inconclusive with the government reportedly refusing to repeal the laws and the protesting farmers holding firm to their demand.
As per news agency PTI, AIKA leader Hannan Mollah said after the meeting that the government will give in writing the amendments it is willing to make on Wednesday and that farmers representatives will not attend the sixth round of talks which were scheduled to be held on Wednesday.
However, in an indication of a split within the farmers, some leaders who attended the meeting appeared to be in favour of necessary amendments and assurances on the minimum support price (MSP) regime and the mandi system rather than a complete repeal of the laws enacted in September
Meanwhile, Opposition parties announced a meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday at 5 pm. The joint delegation of five members will include Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, and others, said CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury as quoted by ANI.
The bandh also received widespread support on Tuesday as protesters from Opposition parties and several other organisations held symbolic ‘chakka jam’ demonstrations across the country.
In Delhi, protestors blocked the expressway to Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, while demonstrators in West Bengal and Maharashtra stopped trains, and in Gujarat, groups blocked three highways, as per Scroll.in.
The Aam Aadmi Party, meanwhile, alleged that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was put under house arrest by the police after he went to meet the farmers at Singhu border on Monday.
Farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against the laws for nearly two months. The situation escalated twelve days ago when thousands marched to the National Capital, where they clashed with police who used tear gas, water cannons, and batons against them.
The farmers have since camped along Delhi borders, saying they won’t leave until the government rolls back the legislations as they fear the new laws will dismantle the minimum support price system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporates.
The government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
‘There is no middle path’
After the meeting, which was also attended by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Som Parkash, Mollah said that all 13 unions demanded repeal of laws adding, “we’ll decide on next round of talks after consulting others”, as per news agency PTI.
“We want repeal of laws, there is no middle path,” the CPM Polit Bureau member reiterated.
While some leaders appeared to be in favour of amendments, others threatened that they will boycott the scheduled sixth round of talks with the government on Wednesday at Vigyan Bhawan, while others said their next course of action will depend on what amendments the government assures in writing, which they claimed was promised by Shah in Tuesday's meeting.
Another leader said, "There is no chance of tomorrow's (Wednesday's) meeting. Whatever they have decided to give in writing we won't accept those amendments as we want complete repeal of the laws. There is no question of meeting again."
Mollah said a final decision on attending the sixth round of talks will be taken at a meeting of union leaders on Wednesday noon at Singhu border, where thousands of farmers have been camping for the last 12 days demanding the repeal of the laws.
Earlier, there appeared to be confusion over the venues of the meeting with some farmer leaders saying they first expected the meeting to take place at Shah's residence, However, it was held at the National Agricultural Science Complex, Pusa at 8 pm and continued late into the evening.
Even before the meeting there appeared be a discord among the organisations spearheading the protests. The head of the BKU (Ugrahan), which is one of the largest outfits in the bloc, questioned the rationale of the talks a day before the scheduled official consultations, reported PTI.
In a social media post, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, who was not among the 13 leaders invited to the meeting with Shah, said there was no need for the talks before official consultations and hoped that the leaders attending today's meet would keep in mind the view of the larger group.
"We will demand just a 'yes' or a 'no' from Home Minister Amit Shah," farmer leader Rudru Singh Mansa told reporters earlier in the day at the Singhu border
As per NDTV, these are the names of the 13 farmers who were supposed to attend the meeting with Shah.
13 किसान नेता जो @AmitShah मिलेंगे राकेश टिकैत
गुरनाम सिंह चढूनी
शिव कुमार कक्का जी
बलवीर सिंह राजेवाल
रुलदू सिंह मानसा
मंजीत सिंह राय
बूटा सिंह बुर्जगिल
हरिंदर सिंह लखोवाल
कुलवंत सिंह संधू
बोध सिंह मानसा, जगजीत सिंह धल्लेवाल via @harpreetptc
— Saurabh shukla (@Saurabh_Unmute) December 8, 2020
Mansa claimed the Central government has bowed down before the 'Bharat Bandh'.
Another leader Gurnam Singh Chadhuni said the 'Bharat Bandh' is successful and the Central government now knows it doesn't have a way out.
The nationwide shutdown was observed in around 10,000 places in 25 states, added Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav.
Farmer leaders said the protestors will not go to Burari ground as it is an "open jail" and demanded that Ramlila Ground be given to them. They added that they don't want to trouble the people of Delhi and Haryana.
Farmers block key highways in Punjab, Haryana
In Punjab and Haryana, shops and commercial establishments remained closed at most places as traders backed the agitating farmers.
Public and private transport services remained shut in Punjab. In neighbouring Haryana, inter-state and intra-state bus services were disrupted.
Petroleum dealers in the twin states kept filling stations closed to support the 'Bharat Bandh' called by the farmer unions.
Agitating farmers blocked several key roads, including Chandigarh-Delhi, Amritsar-Delhi, Hisar-Delhi, and Bhiwani-Delhi national highways. They parked tractors, trucks, and other vehicles in the middle of the carriageways.
Carrying placards, the protesters squatted on key roads and raised slogans against the BJP-led government at the Centre. There were sit-ins at toll plazas in several places.
— ANI (@ANI) December 8, 2020
The road blockades led to inconvenience to commuters across both states, including Chandigarh.
Several unions representing government employees, arthiyas (commission agents), and transporters have extended their support to the protest.
Besides, all major political parties in Punjab the ruling Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, and the Shiromani Akali Dal have also backed the farmers.
In Haryana, police had issued a travel advisory stating that people might face traffic blockades on various roads and highways of the state. Haryana Roadways officials said their services were hit by the blockades.
The Roadways' bus service towards Punjab has been suspended for the day. Buses on many routes towards Himachal Pradesh which pass through Punjab have also been suspended.
AAP claims Kejriwal under house arrest, Delhi Police denies accusation
The Aam Aadmi Party, meanwhile, on Tuesday morning alleged that the Delhi Police has put Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal under house arrest after he met protesting farmers at the Singhu border, a claim denied by the city police.
Kejriwal had visited the Singhu border on Monday and reviewed facilities for farmers protesting against the Centre’s new agri-marketing laws.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also said that he was not allowed to enter inside Kejriwal's residence. The AAP leader later addressed a press conference outside the chief minister's residence.
Addressing a press conference earlier, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj claimed the city police have put Kejriwal under house arrest.
"On the direction of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Delhi Police has put Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal under house arrest ever since he visited farmers at Singhu border. No one has been permitted to leave or enter his residence and he has not been allowed to meet anyone.
“When our MLAs went to meet the chief minister, they were beaten and thrown on the streets. The party volunteers were also not allowed to meet," he alleged.
Refuting the charge, Satish Golcha, Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) North Zone said the situation in the national capital is peaceful.
Anto Alphonse, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) also tweeted a photograph of the entrance of Kejriwal's residence and denied the allegations.
This claim of CM Delhi being put on house arrest is incorrect. He exercises his right to free movement within the law of the land. A picture of the house entrance says it all.@DelhiPolice @LtGovDelhi pic.twitter.com/NCWBB9phDS
— DCP North Delhi (@DcpNorthDelhi) December 8, 2020
Kejriwal doing politics of 'lies, deceit, propaganda': BJP
The BJP hit back at AAP's claims of Kejriwal being under house arrest and accused the Delhi chief minister of practising politics of "lies, deceit and propaganda" for alleging that Delhi Police has put him under house arrest as the saffron party refuted his claim.
After Delhi Police denied that the AAP leader was put under house arrest, BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia dared the Delhi chief minister to step outside his residence to show if cops try to prevent him from leaving.
"Had there been even an iota of truth in the Aam Aadmi Party's claim, its members would have put out hundreds of photographs and videos to back their allegations and filed complaints in courts and even United Nations", said Bhatia.
"The politics of lies, deceit, and propaganda being done by Arvind Kejriwal is most unfortunate... I wish to challenge Arvind Kejriwal. Stop this politics of lies and step out of your house. There are cameras outside your house. Let the entire country and Delhi see whether you're under house arrest or not.
"You have been doing this kind of cheap and petty politics blaming (Union) Home Minister without an iota of evidence and this won't be tolerated," he said. The Delhi Police reports to the Union home ministry.
BJP and Congress workers clash in Jaipur
As the strike picked up momentum during the day, a clash broke out between Congress and BJP workers in Jaipur, which evoked a mixed response in Rajasthan where mandis were closed but shops in several places remained open.
Markets and business activities were partially affected at other places such as Kota, Jodhpur, and Bikaner. Shops in a few towns in Bundi, Baran, and Jhalawar were closed to support the farmer unions' call for a nationwide strike against the Centre's Agri laws, while others were open as usual.
— ANI (@ANI) December 8, 2020
Roadways buses, trucks, and minibusses did not ply, but auto-rickshaws and e-rickshaws were seen on the roads.
The impact of the protest was seen in Jaipur, Alwar, Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Bikaner, Sikar, and Jhunjhunu districts of the Congress-ruled state.
Opposition parties to meet President tomorrow
Opposition parties are expected to meet Kovind on Wednesday evening to raise their concerns about the three farm laws.
NCP president Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said leaders from different political parties will discuss and take a collective stand on the contentious farm laws before meeting President Ram Nath Kovind.
"Leaders from different political parties (those opposing the farm bills) will sit, discuss and take a collective stand on the contentious farm laws before meeting President Ram Nath Kovind," Pawar told reporters.
With inputs from PTI
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Farmer unions and opposition parties too had raised doubts over the composition of the panel, insisting that its members have been in favour of the three laws in the past. The panel is due to hold its first meeting on 19 January
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