SKM criticises Prime Minister for his remarks in Parliament; farmers firm on continuing protest until demands are met

Published : February 09, 2021 11:33 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, on February 8. Photo: PTI

On the 76th day of the farmers’ protest against the three new farm laws, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, replying to the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address in Parliament, remarked that in recent times a new breed called “Andolanjeevi”(translated as people who make a living out of protests) and a new FDI called Foreign Destructive Ideology had emerged. He said the Andolanjeevis were Parjeevis (parasites) and were seen at all protests taking ideological stands. He also listed out the various government schemes for farmers, but did not say a word about the growing number of casualties at the borders of Delhi where several farmers have died either of sickness or by suicide. On February 7, two more farmers joined the ranks of the dead; one of them took his life leaving behind a note and the other succumbed to a heart attack. Modi’s observations drew flak from farmer union representatives.

The Prime Minister said that the government was open to discussions and that the Agriculture Minister had “continuously” engaged the farmers in discussions. He defended the farm laws on the grounds that it was necessary to look “forward” and modernise the mandis. The Minimum Support Price (MSP), he said, “has existed, exists and will continue to exist” and sidestepped the issue of guaranteeing a legal framework to the MSP. He accused the Congress of doing a U-turn on the issue of farm law reforms.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), comprising farmer unions leading the protests across the country, reacted strongly to the Prime Minister’s remarks. The term “Andolanjeevis” was insulting to farmers, the SKM said. It was the Andolans (movements), it said, that had liberated India from colonial rulers and added that it was the government’s attitude that was creating more Andolanjeevis. “We are proud to be Andolanjeevis. It is the BJP and its predecessors that never did any Andolan against the British and they were always against Andolans. They are still scared of public movements,” the SKM said. Farmers, it stated, would be more than happy to get back to farming if the government accepted their legitimate demands. The SKM leadership was dismissive of the Prime Minister’s assurances on MSP and his insinuation of a Foreign Destructive Ideology. It said that while farmers did not endorse any such version of FDI referred to by the Prime Minister, it was equally dangerous that the Prime Minister should refer to it.

AIKS demands apology

The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), a constituent of the SKM, condemned Modi’s remarks and demanded an apology for his “derogatory remarks” in Parliament. In a statement, AIKS office bearers Ashok Dhawale and Hannan Mollah said the insult had come from a “corporate jeevi” Prime Minister (a person who drew his livelihood from corporates) and “whose RSS was never a part of the glorious ‘andolan’ of the people of India against the slavery of British rule”. The AIKS accused the Prime Minister of violating the promise made by the BJP in its 2014 manifesto to implement the MSP based on the formula of C2 plus 50 per cent recommended by the Swaminathan Commission. The farmers, it said, would not step back until their demands were met, including repeal of the three farm Acts, a legally guaranteed MSP at the recommended formula, withdrawal of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, and the dropping of the anti-farmer clauses in the Air Quality Ordinance, 2020.

The SKM’s apprehension that the government was not sincere in finding a solution was proven right when the government introduced the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in Parliament despite saying, during the early rounds of talks with the farmers, that the Bill would be placed in abeyance. The SKM also protested after many Twitter accounts were suspended and several popular music videos, including protest songs, especially those by popular Punjabi Sufi singer Kanwar Grewal, were also removed. The songs were primarily about the rights of farmers, agricultural workers and the youth, and Kanwar Grewal had performed live in all the protest sites. Meanwhile, huge mahapanchayats of peasant communities continued to be held in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan against the farm laws.

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