Farmers' protests: Unions propose 29 Dec for talks but want MSP, repeal of laws on agenda; group from Maharashtra reaches Delhi
RLP convenor Hanuman Beniwal also announced his exit from the BJP-led NDA, and ex-Lok Sabha MP and BJP leader Harinder Singh Khalsa resigned from the party over the farm laws
As the protests against the Centre's new farm laws surpassed a month, the farmers' unions on Saturday decided to resume talks and proposed 29 December as the date for the next round of talks. However, they made it clear that their demands for Minimum Support Price (MSP) guarantee and the modalities to repeal the three laws should be part of the agenda.
The groups also demanded that the Centre should stop "spreading misinformation" on the farmers' protests and "misleading" the public on the demands of the farmers.
Saturday's announcement from the farmers' groups has come after multiple rounds of talks held between the government and the protesting farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have failed to break the ongoing impasse.
The proposal for talks has come amid Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah urging the groups to return to the negotiation table. On Saturday, addressing a rally in Assam, Shah had urged the farmers to find a solution to the problems through talks.
अभी कुछ लोग कृषि सुधार कानूनों को लेकर बड़ा आंदोलन कर रहे हैं।
मैं उन सभी से इस मौके पर अपील करना चाहता हूं कि आप मुख्यधारा में आइये, सरकार के साथ चर्चा कीजिये और सरकार के साथ चर्चा करके समस्या का समाधान ढूंढ़िए: श्री अमित शाह
— BJP (@BJP4India) December 26, 2020
Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and other states have been camping at three Delhi border points — Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur — for over a month, demanding the repeal of tree farm laws enacted in September, and a legal guarantee on minimum support price.
While the government has presented the three laws — Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — as major reforms aimed at helping farmers, protesting unions have maintained these acts will leave them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the mandi and MSP systems.
On Saturday, a group of farmers from Maharashtra who had left on Monday for Delhi from Nashik also joined protesters at one of the borders of Delhi, an All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader said.
Meanwhile, several batches of farmers from Punjab, carrying ration and other essential items with them, were seen headed towards Delhi borders on Saturday to join other protesters.
According to farmer union leaders, peasants from various places including Sangrur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Bathinda districts were headed towards Singhu and Tikri borders. They began their journey despite fog and biting cold wave conditions in many parts of Punjab on Saturday.
Saturday also saw Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) convenor and Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal announcing his exit from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Additionally, former Lok Sabha MP and BJP leader Harinder Singh Khalsa resigned from the party.
In Haryana, former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda reiterated his stand to bring a no-confidence motion against the Manohar Lal Khattar over the farm laws.
MSP, modalities to repeal laws must be part of agenda: Sanyukt Kisan Morcha
The decision by the agitating farmers to hold another round of talks with the government was taken at a meeting of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions protesting at various Delhi border points against the farm laws for more than a month.
"As the government is willing to hold talks with us, and asking for a date and about our issues, we have proposed to hold a dialogue on 29 December. Now, the ball is in the government's court, when it calls us for talks," Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait told PTI.
In a letter to the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Vivek Aggarwal, the Morcha said, "We propose that the next meeting between the farmers' representatives and the Government of India be held on 29 December, 2020, at 11 am."
The farmers also decided to intensify their agitation, with farmer leader Darshan Pal saying that a tractor march will be held on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal highway on 30 December. He asked people from Delhi and other parts of the country to come and celebrate New Year with protesting farmers.
Another farmer leader, Rajinder Singh, said, "We will march from Singhu to Tikri to KMP. We ask farmers from surrounding states to come in huge numbers in their trolleys and tractors. If the govt doesn't want us to block the KMP highway, then they better announce the repeal of the three farm laws."
RLP exits NDA; threat looms over Khattar govt
Meanwhile, Beniwal, while announcing his party's split from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) over these farm laws, said, "I am not stuck with Fevicol with the NDA. Today, I separate myself from the NDA," He was addressing a farmers' rally in Shahjahanpur in Alwar district.
According to reports, Harinder Singh Khalsa resigned "in protest against the insensitivity shown by party leaders and the government towards the sufferings of the farmers, their wives and children protesting against the three agrarian laws".
Khalsa had joined the saffron party in March 2019 in the presence of late finance minister Arun Jaitley.
Punjab: Former Lok Sabha MP Harinder Singh Khalsa resigns from BJP "in protest against the insensitivity shown by party leaders & the govt towards the sufferings of the farmers, their wives and children protesting against the three agrarian laws".
— ANI (@ANI) December 26, 2020
In Haryana, former chief minister Bhupinder Hooda reiterated his stand of bringing a no-confidence motion against the Manohar Lal Khattar government in the state Assembly, saying "many Independent MLAs have withdrawn support from the government".
Two Independent MLAs — Sombir Sangwan and Balraj Kundu — have withdrawn support to the state government, while many of the 10 legislators of the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) have openly come out in support of the farmers protesting against the Centre's three farm laws.
"In this battle between the farmers and the government, many legislators of coalition partner JJP have also spoken in support of the farmers. It is clear that the BJP-JJP coalition government has lost not only support from the public, but also the confidence of its own legislators," Hooda said.
BJP alleges Congress 'wants bloodshed' in farmers' protest
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday upped its attack on the Congress, with BJP general secretary Dushyant Gautam issuing a warning that "if there is any bloodshed or loss (of life) in the coming days, then the Congress and the left parties will be responsible".
कांग्रेस किसान आंदोलन को खून-खराबे में बदलना चाहती है।
उनके सांसद रवनीत सिंह बिट्टू ने कहा कि पहली तारीख के बाद खून खराबा होगा, लाशें बिछेंगी।
आने वाले समय में कोई खून-खराबा या हानि हुई तो इसकी जिम्मेदार कांग्रेस और वहां बैठे वामपंथी दल होंगे।
— BJP (@BJP4India) December 26, 2020
Gautam made the remarks at a press conference accusing the Punjab government of orchestrating an attack on BJP workers in the state during an event to celebrate former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's birthday on Friday.
The BJP leader also alleged that Congress' Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu in a media statement had said that the farmers' protest will not end "and to achieve our objective we can even pile up bodies, shed blood and go to any extent".
Farmers ask Centre to stop misinforming and misleading public on protests
Earlier this week, Aggarwal had written to the 40 protesting unions and invited them for fresh talks, but made it clear that it would not be "logical" to include in the agenda any new demand related to the MSP, which is out of the purview of the three new farm laws.
Responding to the government's letter, the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha in its communication said, "Unfortunately, your (Aggarwal's) letter continues the government's attempt to mislead the public by suppressing true facts about the deliberations in the previous meetings. We have consistently demanded the repeal of the three Central Farm Acts, whereas, the government has distorted our position as if we were asking for amendments to these Acts."
The letter further added, "If you are sincere about respectfully listening to farmers, as you say in your letter, the government must not indulge in misinformation about the previous meetings. The campaign launched by the entire state machinery to defame and malign the farmers' movement must stop forthwith."
Shiv Sena holds protest in Aurangabad; Maharashtra farmers reach Delhi
The Shiv Sena on Saturday held a protest in Osmanapura Chowk area of Aurangabad in support of the thousands of farmers agitating near Delhi for a month against the three new farm laws of the Centre.
Aurangabad-Jalna Shiv Sena MLC Ambadas Danve said the protest was in support of the demands from cultivators across the nation that these laws be repealed as they aim to give corporates a dominant role in the sector.
"We have a strong bond with the farm community in the state and, hence, we have organised this protest here to show solidarity with them," he said.
Adeshpal Singh Chhabada, former president of the Aurangabad Vyapari Sangh and one of the agitators, thanked the Sena for its support.
Meanwhile, a group of Maharashtra farmers, who had left for Delhi from Nashik arrived in the National Capital on Saturday.
"We received a rousing welcome at a New Delhi border. Farmers sitting on protests here welcomed us and thanked us for joining them," All India Kisan Sabha secretary, Maharashtra, Ajit Navle, said in a statement.
He said that farmers have expressed willingness to discuss their issues with the government, "but we want some clauses in the recenty-passed laws, which do not protect the interests of farmers, removed".
The farmers from Maharashtra, who had started off in private vehicles from Nashik on Monday, were led by leaders of the Kisan Sabha.
According to the Kisan Sabha, farmers from 21 districts in Maharashtra had joined the "vehicle march" to Delhi.
More Punjab farmers head towards Delhi; Haryana farmers block toll plazas
According to PTI, tractor trollies, cars and other vehicles carrying farmers, including elderly and women, were seen on the Amritsar-Delhi national highway, proceeding towards the borders with the National Capital, PTI reported.
"We will rest only when the Narendra Modi government repeals the farm laws," an elderly farmer headed from Amritsar to the protest site near Singhu border told PTI.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), one of Punjab's largest farmer organisations protesting against the recent laws, claimed that thousands of farmers will march from the Khanauri and Dabwali borders towards protest sites near the national capital. The outfit's General Secretary Sukhdev Singh said that many women are also part of the fresh batches of farmers.
On Friday too, several batches of farmers under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) headed for the protest sites from Amritsar and other places.
Meanwhile, for a second day on Saturday toll collection was halted at several highway points in Haryana -- including in Karnal, Sirsa, Rohtak and Jhajjar districts — by the farmers protesting against the new agriculture-related laws.
Responding to a call given by the Bharatiya Kisan Union, farmers had on Friday halted toll collection on most highways in Haryana. Officials said toll collection remained halted at several toll points on Saturday too.
A few days ago, the BKU had announced that toll booths in Haryana would not be allowed to collect charges between 25 and 27 December. However, operations were normal at various toll plazas in Gurugram and Palwal districts.
A day after Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that farmers should try the new laws at least for two years, before rejecting them, former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy shared similar views on Saturday.
Kumaraswamy asked farmers to have an open mind towards experimenting with the new laws. He also said that India's image is taking a hit globally because of the ongoing farmers' protest and urged the prime minister to end the stalemate.
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