Leaders weigh in on issue in India, abroad
The ongoing stir by thousands of farmers on the borders of the national capital echoed in foreign countries even as the Union government attempted to initiate talks with the protesters and the Opposition criticised the Centre for not defusing the crisis that saw a pitched battle on highways last week.
In Delhi, Union home minister Amit Shah defended the Centre’s recently enacted farm laws and said they were meant for the welfare of agriculture. “After a long time the farmer is going to come out of a locked system. Whoever wants to oppose it politically let them do it. I have never said the farmers protest is political and would never say,” he said.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the Centre was ready to hold talks. “The government has proposed to meet on December 3 for the fourth time...but farmers’ unions should create an atmosphere for it. They should leave the route of agitation and choose a way of talks,” Tomar told ANI.
On Sunday, the protests were mentioned by Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh, who criticised the Indian government’s use of force against the farmers. His brother Gurratan Singh, an MLA in the Ontario assembly also joined in, tweeting he felt the “pain and struggle of farmers protesting laws that threaten their livelihoods.”
In the United Kingdom, Labour MPs of Indian origin criticised the police measures against the farmers, while many Sikhs held a car rally in Southall. Preet Kaur Gill, Labour MP from Birmingham Edgbaston and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Party for British Sikhs, saidm “This is no way to treat citizens who are peacefully protesting over the controversial farmers bill in India”.
Four days ago, farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh and other neighbouring states set off on their “Dilli chalo” campaign to protest a set of laws to liberalise farm trade and open up agricultural markets in the country.
The protesters want the Centre to revoke three laws approved by Parliament in September that did away with a network of government-controlled agricultural markets.
The protests triggered a bitter war-of-words between Punjab and Haryana chief ministers.
Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh flayed Khattar for his allegations that the former did not attend to the latter’s calls to discuss the farm issues. “If at all someone from his office called my residence...Why were official channels not used to get in touch with me?” a statement from the Punjab government quoted him.
This came after Khattar alleged that he made efforts to get in touch with Singh but could not get hold of him.
Khattar hit back, saying he will hold his Punjab counterpart responsible if farmers’ gathering led to a worsening of the Covid-19 pandemic in the state. “...when protestors tried to move forward, we decided not to use force. I don’t consider tear gas and water cannon as a way of force. It is a means of restricting people,” Khattar told ANI.
Senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda also hit out at Khattar and warned that if farmers’ problems are not resolved, a “bigger movement” will be undertaken. “Until the farmers win this battle, we stand firmly with the demands of the farmers...,” he said.
Other opposition parties also attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for not resolving the farmers’ issues.
“The government does not have any sympathy for the farmers. It is only worried about the corporate houses and how to fill their coffers and hold hostage the resources of the state,” Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said.
Delhi home minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Satyendar Jain said the Centre should not set any conditions to hold talks with the agitating farmers. “Central government should talk to farmers immediately and unconditionally,” Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
The Shiv Sena expressed sympathy with the farmers. “It is sad they are not being allowed to come to Delhi and are being treated as if they are terrorists and have come from outside the country. The government should consider the demands of farmers sympathetically,” Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said.
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