Rally at Delhi’s Ramlila ground: Farmers to launch protest if demands not met
Until April 30, farmer leaders at district levels must carry out foot marches, panchayats and conventions to mobilise farmers across the country, said Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s Darshanpal Singh
Farmers would launch a bigger agitation than their protest on Delhi’s borders in 2020-21 if their demands on a law on minimum support price, debt waiver and pension, among others, are not met, Samyukt Kisan Morcha leaders said at a Kisan Mahapanchayat at the Ramlila Maidan in the national capital on Monday.
“We do not want to launch another agitation, but are being compelled to do it because our demands are not being met without protests,” SKM leader Darshanpal Singh said. The farmers’ collective will decide on a larger protest on April 30 at a meeting of farmer leaders, likely to be held in Delhi, he said.
Until then, farmer leaders at district levels must carry out foot marches, panchayats and conventions to mobilise farmers across the country, Singh told the gathering that had people from states such as Bihar and Maharashtra.
Farmer leaders claimed that over 20,000 farmers were in attendance. “We were prepared to handle a gathering of over 50,000, but at least 20,000 of them made it to the mahapanchayat,” said Baljinder Singh Maan, a leader of the BKU (Tikait faction).
The Delhi Traffic Police had pegged the expected number of protesters at 20,000-25,000, but police officers on the ground said it was much lesser. “There were lesser than 10,000 farmers,” said a senior police officer.
Rakesh Tikait, the most recognizable face of the 2020-21 agitation against the now-repealed three farm laws, urged farmers to launch protests at their villages. “For MSP guarantee, we need an agitation greater than the 13 months protest (in 2020-21),” Tikait said.
The 2020-21 protests were undertaken at multiple borders of Delhi for 13 months before the Union government gave in to farmer demands and repealed the contentious laws. The issue around MSP, the price at which the government purchases farm produce, remains unresolved, a reason why farmers gathered at the Ramlila Maidan.
Farmers from several states started arriving in the city from Sunday evening. Many spent the night at gurdwaras in and around central Delhi. “We were prepared to feed 25,000-30,000 farmers,” said Sukhdev Singh, a volunteer at Gurdwara Shri Bangla Sahib, who brought lunch for the farmers at the Ramlila ground on Monday afternoon.
Delhi Police made adequate security arrangements by deployed a large number of personnel. Policemen largely on preventing farmers from straying far from the venue. Police put up barricades around the venue and diverted traffic on certain routes to prevent overcrowding; the diversions lead to traffic jams in the area.
Unlike the 2020-21 agitation, which saw participation by a large number of youth and women, Monday’s rally was attended largely by middle-aged and elderly men. A large number of banners carried the slogan “No Farmers, No Food,” which was a rally cry during the previous agitation.
“Apart from the MSP, we need pension for famers aged over 60 years, insurance for our crops, cases against farmers (registered during the 2020-21 agitation) revoked, and compensation to the martyrs (farmers who died during the previous protest),” said Nirankar Chaudhary, a farmer from Amritsar in Punjab.
Many farmers attributed their attendance to their gratitude towards Tikait. Raju Pinna, a farmer from Muzaffarnagar, said he brought over 100 farmers with him on Tikait’s call. “If it wasn’t for Tikait saab’s determination and leadership, the previous agitation would have ended prematurely and the three farm laws wouldn’t be repealed. We are confident he will guide us to success in the MSP issue as well,” said Pinna.
“Without protests, this country won’t survive,” Tikait said in his speech. “There’s no use (of protests) unless there is a huge crowd.”