Farmers stage sit-in on Delhi-Jaipur highway; Narendra Tomar accuses Oppn of 'propaganda' against new laws
Meanwhile, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that he will observe a day-long fast on Monday in solidarity with the protesting farmers
Farmers from Rajasthan and some other places gathered in large numbers on the Haryana-Rajasthan border near Rewari for their march towards Delhi and sat in protest on the Delhi-Jaipur national highway as the Haryana police put up barricades to stop their onward march.
A large number of women also briefly blocked the Yamuna Expressway near its 62-km milestone to extend support to farmer leaders, said police. Over a hundred women blocked the Expressway briefly in the morning to protest the alleged detention of some agitating farmer leaders but lifted the blockade after being assured that the farmer leaders were not detained but only taken away for talks, news agency PTI quoted Mathura's Superintendent of Police (Rural) Srish Chandra Dixit as saying.
As the agitating farmers intensified their stir, Union minister Kailash Choudhary said the government will soon decide a date and call union leaders for the next round of talks.
Previous five rounds of talks between the central government and representatives of 40 farmer unions remained inconclusive and the sixth round of talks did not take place after farmer leaders rejected the government's draft proposal to amend certain provisions of the farm laws and declined to participate in the meeting.
The government has maintained that it is ready for discussion anytime. But the farmer unions have said they would come for talks only if the laws are repealed.
Asked when the government will hold the next round of meeting, Chaudhary told PTI, "The meeting will be called soon. We are ready for discussion. But the date has not been finalised." The government will find "some solution" to end the deadlock. "We have full confidence. In the next meeting, the issue will be resolved," he noted.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting against the Centre's new farm laws at various points on Delhi's borders for over two weeks, braving the COVID-19 pandemic and the cold wave.
Farmers stage sit-in at Rajasthan-Haryana border
On Sunday, Rewari's superintendent of police Abhishek Jorwal told reporters at the site that district authorities had imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure banning assembly of five or more people.
"We have set up barricades and we will try to stop them here," he said, adding, besides adequate force of the Haryana Police, three companies of paramilitary personnel have been deployed to ensure law and order.
The farmers were sitting in protest in the Jaisinghpur Kheda area in Rewari along the Rajasthan-Haryana border (NH-48). Gurgaon is over 70 kilometres from the site while Delhi is nearly 80 kilometres away.
Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav, who was at the site, said since the barricades have been put, the farmers had no option but to stage a sit-in.
A farmer from Rajasthan who was among those who wanted to march to Delhi against the Centre's new farm laws was quoted by PTI as saying that they will "force the government to rollback the anti-peasant legislations."
Earlier, the farmers had threatened to block the Jaipur-Delhi highway.
Women block Yamuna Expressway
Bhartiya Kisan Kalyan Samiti's national president Ram Babu Katelia, who is holding a sit-in near Yamuna Expressway with the farmers of the nearby Bajna village, said woman descended upon the highway after learning that he, along with other leaders were detained at the Baldeo Police Station. And in his absence, the police tried to evict the demonstrating farmers from the site, he said.
The local farmers have been holding a sit-in for the last 12 days in support of their eight-point demands, including the withdrawal of the three central laws.
Katelia said the police wanted them to lift the sit-in assuring them that their demands of local nature would be accepted by the administration, but they told police that their dharna would continue till the farmers continue their sit-ins at Delhi borders.
Arvind Kejriwal to hold day-long fast on Monday
Meanwhile, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that he will observe a day-long fast on Monday in solidarity with the protesting farmers.
Addressing a virtual press briefing on Sunday, the chief minister asked that the Centre bring a bill to guarantee minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural produce.
Kejriwal said he will hold one-day fast on Monday in response to a call given by the agitating farmers and urged his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) volunteers, supporters as well as the people of the country to join in.
"I want to appeal to the central government to put an end to their ego. The governments are formed by the public, the public is not formed by the governments. The three farm laws should be immediately repealed and a Bill should be brought to guarantee MSP to farmers," he said.
The chief minister said the Centre should immediately accept all demands of the farmers who have been protesting on Delhi's borders for the past two weeks.
Kejriwal expressed anguish that some Central ministers and BJP leaders were labelling protesting farmers as "traitors and anti-nationals".
"I want to ask them, if so many ex-servicemen, national and international sportspersons, singers and celebrities, lawyers and traders supporting and joining them, are all anti-national?" he questioned.
The BJP should not think wrongly that only a few farmers from Punjab and Haryana and only a few people are in this movement.
Kejriwal compared the "defaming" of the farmers protest with the Anna Hazare's movement of which he was a top leader. "I could not help but reminisce the days of Anna Hazare ji's movement. The Congress government defamed us as anti-nationals. What Congress did to our movement, the BJP is doing the same to the farmers protest," he said.
Narendra Tomar slams Opposition
As farmers' protest entered the third week, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar accused Opposition parties of running "propaganda" against the new farm laws and asserted that these legislations "may cause difficulty for some in the short term" but will be beneficial to farmers in the long run.
Tomar, who is leading negotiations with the 40 protesting farmer unions to break the deadlock, was addressing a delegation of over 100 farmers from Uttarakhand who came to extend their support to the laws.
Addressing the delegation, Tomar said the government faced opposition when it revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. It also faced opposition when it brought the amended citizenship law as well as over the Ram temple issue.
"When the agricultural reforms were brought, there was opposition to this too... There are some people who just oppose and weaken the country. This has become their nature," the agriculture minister said.
On agricultural sector reforms, the discussion has been going on for last many years, Tomar said.
"Unfortunately the previous governments who wanted to reform were not able to it. Since they could not try, they did get the credit," he added.
Tomar stressed that for a new India, reforms are necessary.
The Congress, too, said it was wrong to say that the farmers' protest is limited to states like Punjab and Haryana only, and added that terming the agitation "political" is an insult to the food-growers of the country.
Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also said the Modi government should shed its "arrogance" and follow the Raj Dharma by withdrawing these "black laws" as they "threaten" the farming sector and the livelihood of farmers.
"This is not a fight only for the livelihoods and the lives of 62 crore farmers, but for the 120 crore people who eat what the farmers produce. To term the protests political is a big insult to the food-growers of the country. The Modi government should shed arrogance and follow the Raj Dharma," he said.
"It is wrong to say that the farmers' agitation is limited to Punjab and Haryana. The entire country is affected by these three black agri laws. In Madhya Pradesh, due to decrease in the business volume at the mandis, the tax collection of the board in one year has gone down from Rs 1,200 crore to Rs 220 crore," Surjewala also said in a tweet in Hindi.
Citing a media report, he said 47 mandis and 298 sub-mandis have been closed in Madhya Pradesh alone after the farm laws were enacted.
सरासर गलत है कि #किसानआंदोलन पंजाब हरियाणा के राज्यों तक सीमित है।
पूरा देश 3 काले #कृषि_कानून से प्रभावित है। #मध्यप्रदेश मंडियों में कारोबार घटने से बोर्ड का टैक्स कलेक्शन 1 साल में ₹1200 करोड़ से ₹220 करोड़ हुआ।
47 मंडिया 298 उप मंडिया ठप।https://t.co/0ZF3ABvR7p
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) December 13, 2020
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram also took a swipe at the government saying if it was terming the protesters "Khalistanis, Maoists and agents of Pakistan and China", then why was it engaging them in talks.
If you exhaust all these categories, it means there are no farmers among the thousands of protesters!
If there are no farmers, why is the government talking to them?
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) December 13, 2020
Delhi Police tightens security at border with Haryana
Earlier on Sunday, the Delhi Police stepped up vigil on Delhi's border with Haryana as farmers had announced their plans to block the Jaipur National Highway-8, which passes through Gurgaon, as part of their protest against the Centre's new agriculture laws.
The city police had on Saturday increased security arrangements by deploying additional personnel and placing more concrete barriers.
Measures were taken to ensure commuters do not face inconvenience, a senior police officer said. A police personnel was quoted by NDTV as saying, "We're fully prepared to control the protests."
The announcement by farmers' unions about blocking the Jaipur-Delhi highway came amid protests by thousands for the last 17 days at the various other border points of the National Capital, including Singhu and Tikri, against the laws. Farmers are demanding the Centre withdraw the legislations.
Farmer leaders on Saturday had said that they are ready to hold talks with the government, but will first discuss repealing the three new farm laws, and announced that representatives of their unions will sit on a hunger strike during a nationwide protest on Monday.
They had also said that thousands of farmers will start their ''Delhi Chalo'' march with their tractors from Rajasthan's Shahjahanpur through the Jaipur highway at 11 am on Sunday.
The Delhi Traffic Police has deployed its personnel across important border points to ensure commuters do not face difficulties and is constantly updating people about open and closed routes on its Twitter handle.
On Sunday, the traffic police tweeted that the Tikri and the Dhansa borders are closed for traffic movement but the Jhatikara border is open only for two-wheelers and pedestrian movement.
Those going towards Haryana can take Jharoda (only single carriageway), Daurala, Kapashera, Badusarai, Rajokri NH-8, Bijwasan/Bajghera, Palam Vihar and Dundahera borders as they are open, the traffic police said.
"The Gazipur border is closed for traffic from Noida and Ghaziabad to Delhi due to farmers' protests. People are advised to take an alternate route for coming to Delhi via Chilla, Anand Vihar, DND, Apsara & Bhopra borders," it tweeted.
The traffic police also informed commuters about the closure of the Singhu, Auchandi, Piau, Maniyari, and Mangesh borders.
Since these borders are closed, it suggested that motorists take alternative routes via Lampur, Safiabad, Saboli and Singhu School toll tax borders, it said.
Traffic has been diverted from Mukarba and GTK Road. So, commuters have been advised to avoid Outer Ring Road, GTK Road, and National Highway-44, the traffic police said.
On Saturday, nine-year-old climate change activist Licypriya Kangujam also joined the protesters.
Hope my voice will reach all over the world.
No farmers, No food.
No justice, No rest.#FightFor1Point5#FarmersProtests#ActNowpic.twitter.com/nTHiqxSYs2
— Licypriya Kangujam (@LicypriyaK) December 12, 2020
Tomar and Som Parkash met home minister Amit Shah on Sunday amidst farmers' protests, PTI reported. The ministers were accompanied by BJP leaders from Punjab. It was not immediately known what transpired in the meeting.
Punjab DIG tenders resignation in support of protesting farmers
Punjab Deputy Inspector General (Prisons) Lakhminder Singh Jakhar on Sunday said he has resigned from service in support of farmers protesting against three new farm laws, PTI reported.
Jakhar said he tendered his resignation to the state government on Saturday.
Earlier, Akali Dal stalwart and former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had said that he has returned his Padma Vibhushan award in protest against the Centre's farm laws.
Traffic resumes at Chilla border
Protesting farmers on Sunday vacated carriageways on the Noida-Delhi Link Road via Chilla following a late night meeting with Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Narendra Tomar, PTI reported.
Officials said normal traffic resumed between Noida and Delhi via Chilla border after farmers vacated the spot they had been occupying since 1 December for their sit-in demonstration.
The movement on the DND and the Kalindi Kunj routes, both connecting Delhi and Noida, was also normal.
However, some farmers of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) members, including their chief Thakur Bhanu Pratap Singh, stayed put at the Chilla border in protest.
The farmers had vacated the carriageways around Saturday midnight after a meeting with Singh and Tomar, a BKU (Bhanu) office-bearer said.
"Rajnath ji heard our demands and agreed to take the discussions further and resolve the issues. We were convinced and decided to vacate the road. However, this does not mean that our protest is over," Satish Tomar, a senior IT Cell member of the BKU (Bhanu), told PTI.
According to the news agency, Thakur Bhanu Pratap Singh on Sunday raised demands for the creation of a Kisan Aayog and for statutory pension for farmers, saying it would provide succour to farmers across the country.
"We demand the creation of a 'Kisan Aayog' (farmers commission) which will have farmers as representatives and will set the minimum support price for crops," Singh said.
He also demanded a pension of Rs 10,000 monthly for farmers and cultivators who have reached an age of 60 years.
"Had I been the prime minister, I would have fulfilled these demands in an hour. But I am not the prime minister," he said.
BJP ally RLP's Hanuman Beniwal joins protest in Rajasthan
RLP leader Hanuman Beniwal, after voicing his support for the farmers' protests, on Saturday joined a demonstration in Rajasthan. Farmers in the state reportedly blocked highways in several places as the groups prepared to intensify the protest.
Terming the new farm laws as "anti-farmer", Beniwal, the convenor of RLP, said if Prime Minister Narendra Modi is equally concerned about the farmers, he should implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.
He also reiterated that he would withdraw from the NDA if talks do not turn in favour of farmers. Beniwal along with his supporters also announced that they would move towards the Rajasthan-Delhi border to protest against the new farm laws.
Addressing a 'Kisan Mahapanchayat' organized at Kotputli, Beniwal said the Centre did not hold discussions with stakeholders before bringing the farm laws.
"When the three bills were brought, they did not talk to anyone. We are also a part of the NDA. We are also the sons of farmers. They should have talked to us. They should have told us that they are bringing such a bill for farmers. I do not know who drafted the bills... They were brought and passed," Beniwal said.
He added, "If the prime minister is equally worried about the farmers, then he should implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report."
"These three laws are anti-farmer and the government should enact a new legislation to benefit the farmers. If the talks do not turn in favour of the farmers, I would quit the NDA and if this too does not serve the purpose, I would leave my Lok Sabha membership," Beniwal added.
If the government is not in a position to implement recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, it should guarantee the minimum support price (MSP), the RLP leader said.
Farmers held demonstrations in several districts of the state, including Kota, Ganganagar, Bharatpur, Hanumangarh and Alwar. At many places, toll plazas on the highways were also closed and vehicles were allowed to pass free.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot appealed to the people to maintain peace while holding agitations. "Even on the Delhi-Jaipur highway, farmers should place their demands democratically in front of the Centre and maintain peace," Gehlot tweeted.
Former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot said the BJP-led government at the Centre should abandon its "adamant" attitude and fulfil the demands of the farmers soon.
Pilot tweeted, "Our Annadata have been struggling on the streets for the last 17 days away from their family and home against central government's autocracy to protect their rights in Corona crisis and harsh winter. The BJP government should abandon adamant attitude and fulfil the demands of the farmers soon."
Farmers have been protesting against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020.
Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell 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 Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
With inputs from PTI
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