Reuters/IANS New Delhi
Thousands of protesting farmers yesterday refused to comply with a government appeal to stop blockading major highways into New Delhi and vowed to intensify their action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s liberalising reforms.
Farmers from states around the capital have been demonstrating for three straight days against reforms that deregulate the sector and allow farmers to sell produce to buyers beyond government-regulated wholesale markets, where growers are assured of a minimum price.
Small growers fear the changes will make them vulnerable to competition from big business, and that they could eventually lose price supports for staples such as wheat and rice.
In a statement yesterday, an umbrella group representing different farmers’ unions slammed the government for saying it would engage in talks with the farmers if they moved their protest off the roads into a designated stadium site.
“The government, if serious about addressing the demands of farmers, should stop laying down any conditions and should come straight out with the solution it is offering,” the statement said.
“Farmers are not fools who would not understand what is in their interest,” said Yogendra Yadav, president of Swaraj India – an opposition party.
Reacting to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s advice to farmers to rally in Burari, Sanjay Tyagi, a farmer from Muzaffarnagar, said: “What will we get by going to Burari? Will Amit Shah come there to seek our votes? If he wishes to talk to farmers, he should come on the interstate border.”
With key roads blocked, prices of fresh produce at wholesale markets in Delhi have already begun to tick up, and the protests also disrupted commuter travel into the city.
The farmers’ unions called on farmers in other states to expand the protests from tomorrow, while urging farmers in neighbouring states and others to join demonstrations in Delhi.
The farmers are adamant on their demand that the Centre revoke the three farm laws to end the impasse, though they were not clear about their next course of action.
Farmer Satbir Singh, a resident of Fatehgarh Sahib district in Punjab, asserted at the protest site that it was the “biggest revolution against the three farm laws enacted by the central government”.
“Even the Punjabi diaspora in the US and Canada have come in support of the farmers’ protest. We will not move back an inch until and unless they repeal the laws. We will not go back until these draconian laws are done away with,” Satbir said.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait yesterday asserted that they would thwart all attempts of the Centre to turn the ongoing protest by farmers into “violence that followed anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh” and other areas in Delhi in February.
“The Union government wants to make the Nirankari Maidan at Burari as a flashpoint for another re-run of the violent anti-CAA protests in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area in February. We will not let the government succeed in its attempt,” Tikait said.
“If we reach the Burari ground, we will be accused of planning a protest similar to the Shaheen Bagh. We will not allow a repeat of the anti-CAA protests incidents with our farmers,” Tikait added.
Banned Sikh group announces $1mn aid to farmers
As thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh rally at Delhi’s three interstate border points, banned secessionist group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) is trying to fish in troubled waters by announcing a $1mn aid for farmers who suffered injuries or damage to their vehicles while facing police action in Haryana.
The information has sent security agencies into a tizzy, with many deployed on protest spots in plainclothes to keep a close tab on SFJ supporters who may mingle with protesters as part of their “ill-intention” to lure innocent farmers and take undue advantage of the situation in the name of helping them.
In its recent announcement through a social media platform, the SFJ said it will provide $1mn aid to farmers from “Punjab and Haryana who have suffered bodily injuries or damage to their vehicles while facing police action during their hard-fought journey to Delhi”.
The SFJ’s message mentions its plan for opening a 24-hour call centre on November 30 in the US, Canada, the UK, France and Germany to accept online applications from farmers of Punjab and Haryana to reimburse for their losses and also to register votes for its “Khalistan Referendum”.
“SFJ is kick-starting the Khalistan Referendum voting from London on August 15, 2021 for the independence of Punjab,” mentions the message circulated by SFJ’s US-based General Counsel and group’s key leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun – designated a terrorist by the Indian government.
Assuring farmers of Punjab and Haryana that the SFJ will bear all the losses they have suffered, Pannun stated that “once Punjab is liberated from Indian occupation, the loans of the farmers will be waived and free power supply granted”.
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