Several farmers keep day-long fast, warn of indefinite hunger strike if demands not met
Eighty-five-year-old Randheer Singh from Haryana, 40-year-old Arjun Arya from Madhya Pradesh and 28-year-old Seema Bharti from Uttar Pradesh came together on Monday to observe a 10-hour hunger strike at Delhi’s borders, to strengthen their demand for the withdrawal of the three new farm laws.
The farmers said Monday’s ten-hour strike, from 8am to 5pm, was a symbolic protest and it may soon take the shape of an indefinite hunger strike, if the government doesn’t agree to their demands.
Singh, a farmer from Jind, has been camping at Singhu border since November 26 when the police had stopped them from entering Delhi. After more than a fortnight of peaceful protest, farmer groups had given a call for hunger strike on Monday after multiple rounds of talks with the government failed.
One of the eldest members of the group to observe the hunger strike, Singh said, “Even on the 18th day of our protest, we are all full of energy as we were on Day One. The movement is not about us individuals anymore. Even if any of us have to sacrifice ourselves, we will not step back,” Singh said.
At Singhu border, at least 10 farmers, three of them women, observed the day-long hunger strike. One of them, Seema Bharti, a 28-year-old farmer from Sindhauli in Uttar Pradesh, said if the government remains deaf to their requests, they will intensify the protest. “If nothing works, we will walk into Delhi like we had planned and make the government heed our demands,” she said.
Apart from Singhu, a group of 10 farmers observed the fast at Ghazipur border, and another group of 20 of went without food at the Tikri border.At the Chilla border, two farmers were seen observing the ten-hour fast.
Rakesh Tikait, 51, leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union Takait (BKU) faction in Uttar Pradesh were among those who kept the fast at Ghazipur. “It’s unfortunate that the government has forced farmers, who provide food to the nation, to go on a hunger strike. We had on Sunday said that we are ready for discussions but the government has not extended an invitation as of now. It government clearly doesn’t think about the farmers,” he said.
At Tikri border, at least 20 farmers took part in the hunger strike. Among them was Bogh Mansa, 68, a farmer from Mansa district of Punjab. “The government has neither been able to explain how the new farm laws are good nor been able to tell us why they can’t be withdrawn,” he said.
Two farmers took part in the hunger strike at Chilla border. Brushing aside the rumours that farmers have left the site, Yogesh Pratap Singh, 35, state president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu), said, “There have been rumours that we have backed out but that’s not true. We just opened the road for the convenience of the people. We will sit here and protest for as long as it takes.”
A group of students and activists on Monday also participated in a protest held in Shaheedi Park, ITO. “The new farm laws would cause enormous harm to the public, marginal farmers, and urban-rural workers by forcing them to buy essential commodities at inflated prices. Moreover, the introduction of contract farming through another law aims to hand over the reins to corporates. These laws have shown that the BJP government is anti-people, anti-worker and anti-small farmer,” said Dinesh Kumar, member of Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS), a student organisation.