In tweet to President Biden, Rakesh Tikait seeks US help on farm laws
Rakesh Tikait, a leader of the ongoing farmers’ agitation against three new agricultural laws, on Friday, tweeted up a storm by appealing to US president Joe Biden, seeking his intervention to get India to scrap the legislation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting the US currently. Tikait’s tweet tagging @POTUS, the Twitter handle of the US president, came several hours ahead of an all-important meeting between the leaders of the US and India.
“These black laws should be repealed to save us. Please focus on our concern while meeting PM Modi,” Tikait, the leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Indian farmers’ union) and a key face of the agitation, tweeted.
The tweet, which had the hashtag “Biden_SpeakUp4Farmers”, began trending in India.
Friday’s meeting was the first in-person meeting of the leaders of the Quad grouping of countries whose members are the United States, Japan, Australia and India.
Tens of thousands of farmers are campaigning against three laws enacted in September 2020 to liberalise domestic agricultural trade.
Farmers say the new laws will leave them at the mercy of big corporations who will dictate prices and wean them off state support. The government has argued the changes will not alter an existing state-backed market system but would free up farm trade, boost investments in the farm economy and raise incomes.
The year-old farmers’ protests have now broadened into a larger political movement against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s economic policies.
Garnering global support is a key agenda of the protesting farmers. “International support for a movement this large rests on mobilising support at all levels. I personally think there is nothing wrong,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, a key member of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a platform of farm unions. Tikait could not immediately be contacted for comment.
Kuruganti, the only woman representative of the farmers to take part in talks with the Modi government on the laws, said “the UN had a special role to play” because India was a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.
Early in the movement, farm leader Darshan Pal made a video appeal to the UN. Farm leaders say they command a lot of support among the Indian diaspora. People have protested against the laws in many cities, from Vienna to Melbourne, Kuruganti said.
The ruling BJP slammed Tikait for the tweet. “To ask the US president to intervene on a domestic issue like agriculture really creates doubt over Tikait’s credibility,” said Gopal Krishna Agarwal, BJP spokesperson.