Farmers' Protest: Bid to mislead farmers will not succeed, says Rajnath Singh; repeal agri laws, Kejriwal tells Centre

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana have been camping at the borders of the National Capital for over a month now, demanding the withdrawal of the three farm laws.

FP Staff December 27, 2020 23:21:05 IST
Farmers' Protest: Bid to mislead farmers will not succeed, says Rajnath Singh; repeal agri laws, Kejriwal tells Centre

Farmers' strike. File Photo/PTI

Farmers protesting against the Centre's three recent agriculture sector laws stayed put at the borders of Delhi amid biting cold weather on Sunday, firm on their demand for the repeal of the reforms.

This, as defence minister and senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh asserted that attempts to "mislead" the farmers will not succeed.

Addressing a function in Himachal Pradesh, the defence minister accused the Congress of misleading the farmers, saying that the new reforms will raise the farmers' income.  Whenever a reform is effected, it takes a few years before it starts showing positive results, Singh said in his virtual address.

Meanwhile, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, during his second visit to the Singhu border this month, said the farmers are protesting for their survival as the new laws will snatch their lands.

"I appeal to the Centre with folded hands to please repeal the three agri laws," he said.

"I challenge any Union minister to have an open debate with the farmers and it will be clear how beneficial or harmful these laws are," The AAP leader said.

Kejriwal, whose party has come out in support of the agitating farmers, had first visited Singhu on the Delhi-Haryana border on 7 December to check the arrangements made for farmers by the Delhi government.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana have been camping at the borders of the National Capital for over a month now, demanding the withdrawal of the three farm laws.

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the Central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middleman and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

The government has repeatedly asserted that the MSP and mandi systems will stay and has accused the Opposition of misleading the farmers.

Five rounds of talks between the Centre and farmers leaders have failed to end the deadlock between the two parties. The protesting farmer unions had on Saturday decided to resume their dialogue with the Centre, and proposed 29 December for the next round of talks.

They had also decided that a tractor march will be held on Kundli-Manesar-Palwal highway on 30 December.

'No response yet on farmers proposal for talks'

Union Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary expressed hope that a solution will be reached in the meeting. However, All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah claimed there was no response yet from the government to the farmers' proposal for the meeting.

"Thousands of farmers who are bearing the winter chill and have gathered at the borders are not here for a holiday. The government till now said that we did not want a meeting, now that we have specifically told them when, where and what of the meeting, there is no response from them. Now, it is for the people to decide who are liars. We acknowledge that there cannot be a resolution without a dialogue with the government," Mollah said.

He further stated that the farmer unions have proposed four specific talking points for the 29 December meeting: the government stating the procedure for repealing three farm laws, procedure to make minimum support price (MSP) for crops a legal right, release of Punjab farmers arrested in pollution-related cases, and repeal of the Electricity Amendment Bill.

"While there is no response from the government, they are busy pushing an agenda on the movement which was never ours to start with. Of the 500 organisations which are part of the farmer struggle, around 10-11 would be Left-leaning. They want the people to believe that crores of people are responding to the call of the Left parties? If this were true, then we would have a revolution," the 76-year-old leader, who is also a CPM)politburo member, told new agency PTI.

"We have repeatedly said that we have not allowed any political party to drive our protest. No political party was consulted when we launched the movement. This is just a way to isolate the Kisan movement in front of the people," he alleged.

Farmers clang thaalis during 'Mann ki Baat'

Also on Sunday, large groups of farmers took out processions at the Singhu and Ghazipur borders, clanging thaalis and chanting slogans against the government during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio address, reported The Indian Express. According to NDTV, such a protest was also held in Punjab's Faridkot and Rohtak in BJP-ruled Haryana.

As per news agency PTI, scores of BKU (Bhanu) members beat utensils and raised slogans hailing the farmers during the prime minister's "Mann ki Baat" at the Chilla border while 200 members of the BKU (Lok Shakti) took out a foot march from the Dalit Prerna Sthal in Sector 95 to Sector 27 and fed birds en route.

Yogesh Pratap Singh, the Uttar Pradesh unit chief of the BKU (Bhanu), reiterated that his union "will not leave the ground" until the demands of the farmers are met by the Centre.

BKU (Lok Shakti) spokesperson Shailesh Kumar Giri said that farmers were carrying seeds to feed the birds in their bags and this was their way of "telling the government that we are firm in our resolve but also peaceful and Gandhian in our approach."

According to a Noida Police official, the Noida-Delhi Link Road via Chilla remained partially closed due to the stir, allowing only the commuters from Delhi to come to Noida but not the other way round. There was no other law-and-order situation due to the stir, the official said.

As per PTI, the Bhanu and Lok Shakti factions of the BKU are not part of the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmers unions that is leading the charge at Delhi's border points in Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur, but have extended their support to the cause.

Farmers leaders had earlier this week appealed to people to beat thaalis during the prime ministers radio address. Farmer leader Jagjeet Singh Dalewala has also said that toll collection would be halted on highways in Haryana between 25 and 27 December.

Farmers to continue allowing toll-free movement on Haryana highways

However, the agitating farmers have now announced that they will continue to allow toll-free movement of vehicles on highways for an indefinite period, said reports. As per a report by the Hindustan Times, farmer leaders, in meeting late on Saturday night, said they will not allow the toll companies to charge from commuters until the Centre accepts their demands.

As per the report, protesting farmers had on 25 December gathered at toll plazas, forced the employees to go on leave and thrown open the barricades for commuters.

“Today, we went to many toll plazas. There was an opinion of the common man that these toll plazas be made free permanently. In our national executive too, we have decided to make the toll plaza free for the movement of vehicles till the government doesn’t accept our demands," Indian Express quoted Haryana Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Gurnam Singh Chaduni as saying.

According to the report, Chaduni further said that committees would be formed to ensure that the agitation at the toll plazas goes smoothly. "The committees consisting of five to 15 members at every toll plaza will talk to the officers, if needed," he said.

Punjab lawyer kills self

Meanwhile, Amarjit Singh , a lawyer from Jalalabad in Punjab died allegedly by suicide, a few kilometres from the site of a farmers' protest at Tikri border.

In a purported suicide note, Singh said he was sacrificing his life in support of the farmers' agitation against the Centre's new farm laws so that the government is compelled to listen to the voice of the people. Singh wrote that the common people like farmers and labourers are feeling "defrauded" due to the three "black" agriculture laws and "the worst life is inevitable".

The police said they are verifying the authenticity of the suicide note, dated 18 December. "We have informed the relatives of the deceased and once they reach here their statements will be recorded and further proceedings will be conducted," a police officer from Haryana's Jhajjar district told news agency PTI.

Earlier, at least two suicides have been linked to the farmers' stir at the borders of Delhi.

10 political prisoners start hunger strike

At least 10 political prisoners of a correctional home in Kolkata on Sunday started a hunger strike in solidarity with the protesting farmers. In a statement released from the Dumdum Central Jail, the protestors described the laws as anti-farmer and alleged that the BJP-led Central government passed the agri laws taking advantage of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation. They also hit out at the BJP-led central government claiming that the laws will actually benefit corporates.

Sources in the state correctional department told news agency PTI that eight other political prisoners lodged in Berhampur Central Jail in Murshidabad district will start fasting from Monday on the same issue.

BJP extends invite to Kejriwal

Meanwhile, the BJP and Opposition parties continued to target each other over the farmers' protest. The saffron party sought to corner  Kejriwal for opposing the new farm laws with the party leaders Adesh Gupta and Manoj Tiwari asking the AAP chief to fix a date and place of his choice where the "benefits of the legislations" could be explained to him.

This comes after Kejriwal ignored Tiwari's Saturday's invite to his residence on Mother Teresa Crescent Road to clear his "doubts" on the laws.

Tiwari said he was waiting for the chief minister at his residence at 3 pm on Sunday. After the chief minister did not come, Tiwari told the media the AAP leader should either stop "misleading people" on the farm laws or accept his invitation.

Gupta, who was also with Tiwari at his residence, said since the Delhi chief minister could not come at the BJP MP's residence, he may select any place and time where the benefits of the three legislations could be explained to him.

BJP president JP Nadda shared an old video of Rahul Gandhi's speech in Lok Sabha in which he seems to be advocating the need for farmers to get rid of middlemen and sell their produce directly to industry, as he accused the Congress leader of playing politics over the ongoing farmers' protest.

"What is this magic happening Rahul ji. You are opposing now what you had advocated earlier. You have nothing to do with the country's or farmers' interests. You have to play politics only. But this is your bad luck that your hypocrisy will not work. People of the country and farmers have recognised your double standards," Nadda tweeted in Hindi along with the video clip.

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh hit out at the BJP, saying it should stop maligning farmers and their genuine fight for justice by using offensive terms such as urban Naxals, Khalistanis, hooligans.

If the BJP cannot distinguish between anguished citizens fighting for their survival and terrorists, militants and hooligans, it should give up all pretense of being a people's party, the chief minister said in a statement.

With inputs from PTI

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