Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday drove a tractor to the Parliament in protest against the Centre’s farm laws. Gandhi said that this was his effort to bring the message of the farmers to the Monsoon Session, reported ANI.
“They [the Union government] are suppressing voices of farmers and not letting a discussion take place in Parliament,” he alleged. “They will have to repeal these black laws. The entire country knows these laws favour two to three big businessmen.”
The Congress leader said that the Centre was taking away the rights of the farmers. “According to the government, farmers are very happy and those [protesting farmers] sitting outside are terrorists,” he added.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have camped at the borders of Delhi since November, braving the cold, heat and rain, firm on their demand that the central government repeal the three laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies.
The farmers are now protesting every day at Jantar Mantar in the Capital as part of a “kisan sansad” or farmers’ parliament, parallel to the proceedings at the Monsoon Session in the Indian Parliament.
Gandhi was seen entering the Parliament in the tractor through Vijay Chowk, reported the Hindustan Times. He was flanked by Congress MPs from Punjab and Haryana such as Deepender Hooda, Ravneet Singh Bittu and Pratap Singh Bajwa.
The MPs were seen holding placards that read “repeal farm laws” and “repeal anti-farmer black laws”. The tractor also carried a banner that read “roll back all three black farm laws”.
Gandhi has repeatedly criticised the Centre on the farm laws. In March, he had accused the Union government of targeting those who are pro-farmers. Using a Hindi idiom, he had said that it was like the government was frustrated and hence carrying out raids against people supporting the farmer protest.
On February 22, the Congress leader had suggested that the government’s aim was not to give farmers the correct price for their produce, but to destroy their markets.
Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party MPs also staged a protest on Monday outside Parliament against the three agriculture laws, reported ANI.
Later on Monday, the Delhi Police detained eight Congress workers and seized the tractor that Gandhi drove, The Hindu reported. An unidentified senior police officer told the newspaper that entry of tractors in New Delhi was not allowed as per traffic rules.
The tractor, which did not have a registration number, has been taken to the Mandir Marg police station.
The police have also ordered an investigation into how the vehicle could reach near the Parliament building when restrictions under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code were in place.
The farm laws
The farmers fear the central government’s new laws will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime. The government, however, continues to claim that the three legislations are pro-farmer.
In January, nearly two months into the protest movement, the Supreme Court suspended the implementation of the farm laws. It instead set up a committee and tasked it to consult stakeholders and assess the impact of the laws.
Talks between farmers groups and the central government to resolve the protests came to a complete deadlock after farmers rejected the Centre’s offer to suspend the laws for two years. The last time both sides met was on January 22. Since then, most farmer leaders have said they were willing to speak to the government again.