Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav on Tuesday claimed that the Haryana Police detained about a dozen farm leaders across the state ahead of the ‘Delhi Chalo’ movement on November 26 to protest against the recently-passed agricultural laws.

In a Facebook Live video, Yadav said he has been getting calls from farmers’ leaders that more than a dozen of them were detained across several districts in raids from midnight till 5 am.

“All those detained have been lodged at police stations,” he said. “No charges have been levelled against them. When the government fails to find any way out from a situation, it resorts to a crackdown.”

The activist claimed that the government was unable to do anything in Punjab, but is cracking down on farmers from Harayana.

Yadav said many groups of farmers are coming from various places, including Karnataka and Maharashtra. “From Punjab, as per yesterday’s news, lakhs of farmers.... have mobilised for Delhi,” the activist said. “The farmers will gather around Delhi and march to Jantar Mantar from there.”

“The November 26 programme is happening and will happen even if they arrest anyone,” he said. “We might be arrested too. We have announced the places we would be visiting and they can arrest us but the programme will take place.”

Yadav pointed out the state government would make the excuse of the coronavirus to stop the farmers’ movement. Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala held a farmers’ rally, where he was not wearing a mask or adhering to physical distancing norms, he claimed. “I request [the Haryana government] to refrain from such arguments,” he said. “Do not use coronavirus as a political weapon.”

He added the protestors are agitating using peaceful measures and accused the government of arresting the leadership to introduce anarchy in the protests. He urged the farmers to not resort to any violent means even if he and other farmer leaders were arrested.

Centre calls Punjab farmers for second round of talks

Meanwhile, the Centre invited farmers’ unions from Punjab for the second round of talks on December 3 to resolve differences over the new farm laws, reported PTI.

“We have called the representatives of over 30 farmer organisations for the second round of discussion on December 3 at Vigyan Bhawan at 11 am,” Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said.

The secretary sent the invitation on behalf of Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. Food Minister Piyush Goyal is also expected at the meeting. Food and agriculture officials of the Punjab government have also been invited.

The call for the meeting came from farmers after they stopped the “rail roko” agitation and allowed the resumption of trains from Monday. The groups, however, said that they will impose the blockade again after 15 days if their concerns are not addressed within that period.

On November 13, the representatives of farmers’ unions from Punjab had met Goyal and Tomar. They had put forth five demands before the ministers, including withdrawal of the three farm laws and revoking punishment for burning agricultural waste.

As part of the “rail roko” agitation, train services in Punjab were initially cut off from September 24. The agitating farmers had on November 4 had agreed to leave the Railways premises, but said that they would only allow for the movement of goods trains. The Railways, however, wants movement of passenger trains as well with complete security.

The Punjab government has been firmly opposing the Centre’s farm laws. Earlier this month, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh took his protest against the laws to Jantar Mantar in Delhi.

The farm laws

The Parliament had passed three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.

Protests had erupted against the laws in many parts of the country. When two of the legislations were tabled during a chaotic session in Parliament on September 20, some Opposition MPs claimed that they would prove to be the “death warrant” for the agricultural sector.

Taken together, the three legislations loosen regulations on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural produce. They allow farmers to sell outside mandis notified by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee. They enable contract farming through deals with private sector companies. They take food items like cereals and pulses off the list of essential commodities, lifting stock limits on such produce.

The government claims the new laws would give farmers the freedom to sell in the open market. But farmers say the laws will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, leave farmers to the mercy of market forces and threaten food security.

Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills. The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s oldest allies, pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance in protest against these bills.