Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday told the Narendra Modi government to hold immediate talks with the farmers protesting against the Centre’s agricultural laws, saying that their voice cannot be “muzzled”.
Tens of thousands of farmers have reached Delhi, undeterred by the winter chill, police barricades, tear gas and water cannons. At some places, the authorities from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana took extraordinary measures as trenches were dug up near key roads to stop their protest march. The Delhi Police eventually gave permission for a “peaceful protest” at the Nirankari grounds in Burari, but visuals showed authorities still using force.
The Punjab chief minister questioned why the Centre was waiting for December 3 to hold talks with the farmers, when the situation is not in control now. “The voice of farmers cannot be muzzled indefinitely,” he tweeted. “Centre should immediately initiate talks with Kisan Union leaders to defuse the tense situation at the Delhi borders. Why wait till December 3 when the situation is getting out of hand now?”
Singh urged the Modi government to show “statesmanship” and accept the demands made by the farmers about the assured minimum support price or MSP system. “If they can give verbal assurance I fail to understand why they can’t make it a legal obligation of the government of India,” he wrote.
He also referred to his Haryana counterpart ML Khattar’s allegations that farmers are being instigated by the Opposition. “Those claiming it’s the Congress that’s instigating the farmers are blind not to see the lakhs of farmers trying to enter Delhi from across the country,” Singh tweeted. “It’s a fight for their lives and livelihoods and they don’t need any backing or provocation.”
Singh, however, welcomed the Centre’s decision to allow the farmers to enter Delhi after a morning of confrontation with the police at the border with Haryana. He continued to criticise the BJP-led government in Haryana for using force against farmers.
“What’s the need for such harsh measures?” he asked, tagging Khattar. “This barbarism needs to stop right now.”
Farmers and traders have also vehemently opposed the new laws, alleging the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that it will leave them at the mercy of corporate powers. The government has maintained that farm laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.