Supporters of farmers take part in a flag march along a blocked highway as farmers continue to protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border in Ghazipur on January 17. (AFP)
Supporters of farmers take part in a flag march along a blocked highway as farmers continue to protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border in Ghazipur on January 17. (AFP)

Farmers’ protest: Cracks in unions as key leader charts own agenda

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha said efforts by Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni to organise an all-party meeting on the farm laws were not “authorised”
By Zia Haq
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:12 PM IST

A platform of farm unions leading the ongoing agitation against a set of agricultural laws is staring at a split, with a prominent leader spelling out a separate agenda for the protests that includes talking to key political parties. Other unions say they want to keep the protests apolitical.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a platform of nearly 400 farm organisations leading the protests, on Monday said efforts by Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni to organise an all-party meeting on the farm laws were not “authorised”and this didn’t figure in its official agenda.

Also Read: ‘Farmers won’t be scared’: Bhupesh Baghel on BJP ‘maligning’ farm laws stir

The farm unions are on a strike since November to demand the scrapping of three pro-reform farm laws they say will hurt their livelihoods, setting off a key political challenge to the Modi government.

A team of 41 representatives of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has been participating in negotiations with the Union government, represented by Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal and Som Parkash. Chaduni has been a part of this team.

Farmers want three farm laws approved by Parliament in September repealed but the government has rejected the demand. Nine rounds of talks so far have failed to break the deadlock.

“The Samyukt Kisan Morcha disassociates itself from the activities of Gurnam Singh Chaduni. His decision for an all-party meeting was never approved or authorised. It is his personal activity,” Hannan Mollah, a key member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s “general body” said.

Mollah said all protest activities and agenda related to the movement against farm laws could only be executed after being unanimously passed by the working committee of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha.

Chaduni told HT that he would make his stand clear before the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, declining to elaborate, referring this reporter to his spokesperson.

Chaduni’s spokesperson Sandeep Topra said Chaduni had not violated any protocol of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha. “If political parties reach out and come to Chaduni for a meeting, how can he say no? He hasn’t shared any stage with political parties.”

According to Mollah, farm unions had unanimously decided to keep their agitation “apolitical” and therefore Chaduni’s move was “not acceptable”.

On January 17, Chaduni, who is an influential farm leader in Haryana and Punjab, had met leaders of the opposition parties, including the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and Shiromani Akali Dal in Delhi in an attempt to forge a larger political alliance against the farm laws.

“The Samyukt Kisan Morcha is not associated with the ‘all-party meeting’ taken up by Mr Chaduni with political parties,” the farm unions’ platform said in a statement on Monday.

The statement also said the Samyukt Kisan Morcha would “inquire” into matter and say what further steps it would take in three days.

The government has pushed three agricultural laws to ease restrictions in farm trade, allow traders to stockpile large quantities of food stocks for future sales and lay down a national framework for contract farming.

Tens of thousands of farmers protesting on Delhi’s border points say the laws will erode their bargaining power and leave them at the mercy of big corporations.

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