Punjab farmer unions meet to decide on Centre’s early talks offer
Representatives of various farmer unions from Punjab are holding a meeting near the national capital to take a decision on an offer of early talks made by the Centre provided the protesting farmers move to a designated site in Burari in the capital.
In a communication sent late Saturday night to all 32 farmer unions camping in and around Delhi for the last two days, the Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla stated that a high-powered group of ministers is ready to hold talks with a delegation of farmers. The message further stated that the union authorities would meet them as early as a day after all the protesting farmers move to the earmarked Burari site in Delhi.
The proposed meeting would be held at the Vigyan Bhawan complex if the farmers accept the condition laid out by the government for early talks. The talks were otherwise originally scheduled to take place on December 3.
The Farmers body said that no formal invite was given to farmers for advancing the talks to December 1 from December 3. It confirmed that the letter from the home secretary received yesterday, offering to advance the date of talks, was the last communication received on the matter.
Joginder Singh Ughrahan, president of the Ughrahan faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), confirmed receiving an official letter of talks from the centre government.
“All unions are gathering near Bahadurgarh in Haryana’s Jhajjar district. As of now, a caravan of our activists is stationed at the Delhi border. We could not move to enter the national capital due to the huge rush of farmers heading to Delhi for protests,” he said.
General secretary of Dakonda faction of the BKU, Jagmohan Singh, said all 32 farmer unions of Punjab are united and any further course of protest would be decided with unanimity.
Meanwhile, an office-bearer of one of the BKU factions said that a section of farmers has a strong reservation against holding protests at Burari as it is associated with the Nirankari sect. The leader said the unions had no plans to vacate the roads leading to Delhi, and the blockades on Bahadurgarh and Chandigarh highways may continue till Sunday night.
“The national convention of farmers had decided to hold a protest at Jantar Mantar. But the central government is insisting that we move to Burari. But as a section of Sikh farmers is against this venue, we will try to convince them,” said a senior functionary of a union.
However, sources said a vast open space spread over 23 hectares in Burari is actually owned by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
“It is popularly known as Nirankari Samagam Ground but the sect is among several other organisations that hold programmes at the site due to spacious vehicular parking and the capacity to accommodate large gatherings. Jantar Mantar is located in the heart of the city and the presence of hundreds of protestors would jeopardise the traffic management,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
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