Protesting farmer leaders ask the BJP government to desist from resorting to provocative and divisive politics and repeal the farm laws

Published : January 11, 2021 11:38 IST

Protest against the farm laws at Singhu border in New Delhi on January 10. Photo: Arun SharmaPTI

A Kisan Mahapanchayat scheduled to be addressed by Manohar Lal Khattar, Haryana Chief Minister, at Kaimla village in Kaithal district on January 10 had to be called off following massive protests by farmers. The meeting, a propaganda exercise by the government, was organised to explain the benefits of the contentious farm laws. Braving barricades, tear gas shells and water cannons, the protesters holding black flags and other banners managed to reach the venue cutting across wheat fields and took over the helipad area and the entire venue. Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party who had reached to welcome the Chief Minister had to beat a hasty retreat. The Chief Minister who was to arrive by helicopter cancelled his visit because of the angry protests.

This is the second time he has had to face protests in the last one month. He had declared that he would address the Mahapanchayat come what may. Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala also had to face angry protests on December 24 and his helicopter was not allowed to land similarly at Uchhana Kalan, his home constituency. The helipad itself was dug up and protesters held placards saying, “Dushyant Chautala go back”.

In a press conference held the same evening, Manohar Lal Khattar said that the “Congress and Communists” were responsible for the protests. He also named Gurnam Singh Chaduni, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Haryana), as having incited farmers via a video message on January 7 where he was reportedly heard exhorting farmers to disrupt the Mahapanchayat. The Chief Minister also said the leaders who were addressing the protests at the borders of Delhi had a “communist” ideology. He also said that he had planned to make major announcements at the Mahapanchayat. He defended the farm laws and said that government was ready to make amendments.

The government, he said, was offering “alternatives” to farmers and they were free to sell their produce at the private mandi. He described the protests as “politically motivated”. Former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda advised the Haryana government to listen to the farmers and to resolve the issue on January 15, the day the ninth round of meetings is scheduled to be held between the farmers and the government.

‘Motivated action’

The Haryana chapter of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Co-Ordination Committee (AIKSCC), a constituent of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a broad front representing more than 500 farmers’ organisations, condemned the police action on the farmers. The AIKSCC (Haryana) said that the Chief Minister owed an explanation for the episode “which was a motivated move to create a law and order situation to defame the unprecedented and most peaceful movement of the farmers”. The Working Group of the AIKSCC asked the BJP government at the Centre and the State to desist from resorting to provocative and divisive politics and rather repeal the three draconian laws which have found no takers anywhere across the country. It also said that the Supreme Court had no role to play in the issue and that the farm laws should be left to the political leadership. The government was using the Supreme Court as a “political shield”, it said.

The Supreme Court, it said, “does not and cannot have any role in resolving a political deadlock” over the farm laws. The AIKSCC alleged that in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the police were preventing people from holding protests. In Etah, Uttar Pradesh, they said, leaders of the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Union had been placed under house arrests. Elsewhere, farmers had also been prevented from boarding trains. The AIKSCC said that the BJP had “boasted” that it had granted minimum support price (MSP) for paddy of Rs.1,868 per quintal even though paddy had been sold at Rs.1,000 to Rs.1,100 per quintal. The Centre, it said, had made no provision for procurement in West Bengal.

Meanwhile at the Singhu border on National Highway 44, Amarinder Singh, a 42-year-old farmer from Fategarh Sahib in Punjab consumed poison and reportedly told his friends he was saddened at the suffering of the farmers. This was the second such suicide to occur in January. Kashmir Singh, a 75-year-old farmer from Uttar Pradesh hanged himself from the ceiling of a toilet at the Ghazipur protest site on the Delhi-Ghaziabad border. He left behind a note in Gurmukhi in which he wrote that he was “sacrificing his body to oppose the farm Bills”.

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