Farm unions slam Centre, say govt lacks sympathy
Farmers’ groups camping on Delhi’s borders to protest against three laws passed by the Centre to open up agricultural trade on Tuesday accused the government of lacking sympathy for their community and announced a day of mourning for the farmers who they claim have died during their campaign.
The 35 farmers’ groups said villages across the country would observe a day of mourning on Sunday for the 20 farmers who died during the farmer’s agitation that started on November 26.
“On an average, one farmer has died every day since this agitation started on November 26. We will pay homage to all the farmers who have been martyred in this duration on December 20 across all villages in the country,” said Jagjit Singh Dallewala, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Sidhupur), said. “When their names and photos will reach villages, more people will come forward to join us in our struggle.”
On Tuesday, four farmers died in two separate road accidents in and around the Mohali and Patiala districts of Punjab. The death of these farmers dominated the discussions at the Singhu border on Tuesday as farmers from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Uttarakhand joined the agitation.
The farmers’ groups announced their plans on a day that Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the farmers had been misled by farmers’ groups and opposition parties to protest against the laws they themselves had sought in the past, but failed to implement. In reaction, they alleged that the government lacked any sympathy for the farming community.
Farmers’ leaders also attributed the government’s decision to cancel the winter session of Parliament to the pressure they had exerted on the Centre, saying it wanted to dodge questions from the opposition.
“We elected the PM and gave him the power to speak and yet he didn’t speak for us in the past 20 days,” said Yudhvir Singh Sehrawat, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait).
Asked if the farmers would try to enter Delhi, Dallewala said: “Only time will tell.” Dallewala also said the farmers would only hold a dialogue with the government if it talked about repealing the laws instead of proposing amendments to them
The massive farmers’ protest was set off by three laws pushed through by the government in September that allow agribusinesses to trade with minimal regulation, permit traders to stockpile large quantities of food commodities for economies of scale and lay down new contract farming rules. Farmers say the new rules favour big corporations to whom they will lose business and gradually end the system of state-set minimum prices. Protesters decided to call off further negotiations on December 8 after a meeting with home minister Amit Shah, claiming a stalemate. Farmers, mainly from north Indian states, have massed at the entry points to the national capital.
Bharatiya Kisaan Union leader Rishipal Ambavata also said that the farmers would also block Delhi-Chilla border on Saturday, two days after it was reopened. The gathering of farmers at the UP Gate border remained peaceful throughout Tuesday. At the Chilla (Delhi-Noida link road) border in the afternoon, nearly 100 farmers arrived from Noida in cars and tried to march towards Delhi through the carriageway that they had cleared on Friday night.
Security forces blocked the road using iron barricades and reinforced their presence, causing a traffic jam. However, a senior police officer had a quick discussion with the farmers and convinced them not to block traffic. After nearly 10 minutes, the barricades were removed and traffic was restored. The protestors parked their vehicles and sat on one portion of the road, which has been barricaded and dedicated to the protesting farmers.
“The Uttar Pradesh government has been stopping farmers from proceeding to Delhi. Many representatives of farmers have been kept in house arrest. We will not tolerate this. If the government continues harassing farmers, we will have no choice but to escalate our agitation to Lucknow and at local levels in Uttar Pradesh. If required, we may block the entire Delhi-Meerut expressway again,” said Rajveer Singh Jadhon, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s UP unit.