Farmers' protests: Opposition lends support to Bharat Bandh call on 8 Dec, urges Centre to withdraw laws
Meanwhile, the BJP's ally in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party on Sunday also supported the call for 'Bharat Bandh'.
Opposition parties across the country on Sunday extended their support to the Bharat Bandh called by the farmers protesting against the Centre's farm laws. The Congress, TRS, DMK, AAP, NCP, and TMC among others joined extending support to strike scheduled to be observed on 8 December.
The strike has been called by farmer unions, which have been protesting on Delhi's borders for 11 days demanding a complete withdrawal of the new agri-marketing laws.
The BJP's ally in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party on Sunday also supported the call for 'Bharat Bandh'.
Hanuman Beniwal, RLP leader and MP from Rajasthan was quoted as saying, "The prime minister should take back the farm laws. We will take a decision on whether RLP will stay in NDA or not after 8 December."
Meanwhile, India's first Olympic medallist in boxing and Congress leader Vijender Singh also threatened to return his Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award if the Centre did not withdraw the new farm legislations, which he dubbed as "black laws".
The 35-year-old from Haryana's Bhiwani made an appearance at Delhi's Singhu border where farmers have been protesting against the laws and expressed solidarity with the agitators.
"...if the government does not take back these black laws, I will request them to take back my award," he announced at the gathering.
"Enough is enough, if the government does not listen to the demands of the farmers, then I have decided that as a show of solidarity, I will return my Khel Ratna," Vijender later told PTI.
"I come from a family of farmers and army men, I can understand their pain and anxiety. It is high time that the government pays heed to their demands," added the boxer, whose brother has served in the Indian Army.
'Stand with BJP and farmers'
Taking to Twitter, Gurdaspur MP Sunny Deol said that he stands both with the BJP and with farmers. He added that the issue is between the farmers and the government and that "no one else should come in between."
Deol, of the BJP, also sought to distance himself from fellow actor Deep Sidhu, who joined the agitation but was later reportedly barred from speaking on the official stage of the farmers' organisations.
"I request the whole world that it is a matter between our farmers and the government. Do not come between them, because both will find a way after discussions. I know that many people want to take advantage of the situation and are creating problems. They are not thinking of farmers. They may have their own agenda," Deol wrote in Hindi on Twitter.
"Deep Sidhu, who was with me during the election has not been with me for a long time and whatever he is speaking, he is saying on his own. I am in no way related to his activities. I stand with my party and farmers and will always be with farmers. Our government always thinks of the betterment of farmers and I am sure that the government will ensure the right outcome after holding talks with farmers," Deol further stated.
Opposition supports call for Bharat Bandh
The Opposition parties that voiced their support for the countrywide strike on Sunday, joined the ranks of the Trinamool Congress, RJD and the Left parties, besides a joint platform of ten central trade unions, who had done so on Saturday.
As support from political parties grew, farmer leader Baldev Singh was quoted as saying, "I appeal to all to participate in 'Bharat Bandh' on 8 December. 250 farmers from Gujarat will be coming to Delhi. There is a need to strengthen this farmers' movement."
Additionally, NCP chief and former Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Sunday warned the Centre that if the deadlock continues, the agitation will not be limited to Delhi and people from across the country will stand by the protesting farmers. Pawar will also reportedly meet President Ram Nath Kovind on 9 December.
Meanwhile, expressing the Congress' "wholehearted" support to the strike call, party spokesperson Pawan Khera said it will hold protests that day at all district and state headquarters in solidarity with the demands of the farmers. Addressing the media at the AICC headquarters in Delhi, he said former party chief Rahul Gandhi, through tractor rallies, signature campaigns and Kisaan rallies, has been raising the party's voice in support of the farmers.
"All our district headquarters and Pradesh headquarters will participate in this bandh. They will hold demonstrations and ensure that the bandh is successful," Khera said.
In the south, Telangana chief minister and TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao said the party rank and file would actively participate in the bandh to ensure it was a success, according to an official statement.
Rao justified the support, stating that the farmers are legally agitating against the farm bills enacted in September and recalled his party's opposition to the legislation in Parliament.
In Tamil Nadu, the DMK-led Opposition bloc too extended support to the strike, saying the farmers' demand for repealing legislation was "totally justified." DMK chief MK Stalin had led a state-wide protest on Saturday against the farm laws.
In a statement, Stalin, TNCC chief KS Alagiri, MDMK founder Vaiko and Left leaders, among other DMK allies, said the ongoing protest outside Delhi by farmers was growing every day and drawing global attention.
The grouping appealed to farmer unions, traders' bodies, government employees' associations, labour unions and others in the state to extend "grand support" to the bandh and make it a success on Tuesday. Actor Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) also extended support to the protest by farmers.
In Delhi, the epicentre of the protests, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that all AAP workers across the country will join the nationwide strike and appealed to all citizens to support the farmers.
"The Aam Aadmi Party fully supports the Bharat Bandh' call made by farmers on December 8. AAP workers across the country will support it peacefully. There is an appeal to all countrymen that everyone should support the farmers and participate in it," Kejriwal tweeted.
AAP leader and Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said volunteers and workers will participate in the strike to support the farmers.
Pawar, whose NCP is part of the Congress-led UPA, said farmers from Punjab and Haryana contribute the most to the country's agriculture and food supply.
"I hope wisdom dawns on the government and it takes cognisance to resolve the issue. If this stalemate continues, the protest will not be limited to Delhi, but people from nook and corner of the country will stand by the protesting farmers," he said.
The ruling TMC in West Bengal had on Saturday extended "moral support" to the 8 December nationwide strike and said it would stage sit-ins in various areas for three days.
TMC MP Sudip Bandopadhyay had said his party, during its protest programmes in Bengal, would seek immediate withdrawal of the farm laws and that the new bills be sent to the standing committee or select committee of Parliament after due deliberations with all stakeholders.
The Left parties — Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Revolutionary Socialist Party and All India Forward Bloc — had made the announcement in a joint statement.
In Patna, Opposition parties led by RJD's Tejashwi Yadav had on Saturday protested against the farmers' bill.
The joint forum of trade unions that has supported the farmers' stir includes Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) and Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC).
The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, a farmers' body, said it will join the "non-violent" protest on Tuesday.
The Jammu and Kashmir-based alliance, People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, comprising the National Conference, PDP, and others also supported the strike.
'Will return Khel Ratna if black laws not withdrawn'
Vijender, who joined the protesting farmers at Delhi's Singhu border on Sunday, had won India's first Olympic medal in boxing, a bronze, in the 2008 Beijing Games.
In 2009, he also became the first Indian boxer to clinch a world championship medal (a bronze). The same year, he was bestowed the country's highest sporting honour for his trailblazing achievements.
He currently plies his trade in the professional circuit and had even contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
"The award definitely means a lot to me but we also have to take a stand for things we believe in," he said. "If the crisis is resolved with talks, then we would all be happy," he added.
Earlier, former national boxing coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu, who was in-charge during the Beijing Olympics, had also talked about returning his Dronacharya award if the demands of the farmers were not addressed.
Vijender and Sandhu joined several former sportspersons in extending their support to the agitating farmers.
Among them are Padma Shri and Arjuna awardee wrestler Kartar Singh, Arjuna awardee basketball player Sajjan Singh Cheema and Arjuna awardee hockey player Rajbir Kaur.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for 11 days against the new farm laws.
The Centre's offer to amend the contentious laws failed to cut ice with the farmer groups during the fifth round of talks on Saturday.
As the logjam continued, the Centre has called another meeting on 9 December.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, after the talks on Saturday, renewed his appeal to the farmers to end the stir and assured them that the Modi government remains committed to farmers' interests.
He requested farmer unions to send the elderly, women and children back to their homes from protest due to cold weather.
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. The Centre has repeatedly asserted that these mechanisms will remain.
With inputs from PTI
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