Punjab President of Bhartiya Kisan Union Krantikari Sarjeet Singh Phul on Sunday said that the farmers have decided to block five main entry points to Delhi until the central government accepts their demand to abolish the new agricultural laws, ANI reported.
The announcement was made at a press conference held by farmer leaders, after several unions from Punjab unanimously rejected Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s offer to relocate themselves to a government-designated area in Burari area of Delhi. They said they would press on with their protest near the city’s borders, until they are allowed to go to Jantar Mantar in Central Delhi. Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav is part of a 7-member committee of farmers that took the decision to turn down Shah’s offer.
“We’ve decided that we’ll never go to Burari Park as we got proof that it’s an open jail,” Phul said. The farmers leader said they did not trust the intentions of the government. “The Delhi Police told Uttarakhand Farmer Association President that they’ll take them to Jantar Mantar but instead locked them at Burari,” he alleged.
“Instead of going to open jail in Burari, we’ve decided that we will gherao Delhi by blocking 5 main entry points to Delhi,” Phul added. “We’ve got 4 months ration with us, so nothing to worry.”
Hundred of thousands of farmers have been demonstrating in and around the Capital against the laws, which they fear will reduce their earnings and give more power to corporations. The protestors – who braved tear gas, water cannons and baton charges on their way – say they would not return to their homes until the government listens to them.
At the press conference, the farmers outlined their demands again. They said that the three “anti-farmer and pro-corporates” farm laws must be repealed, according to The Indian Express. The minimum support price and the rate of buying crops should be guaranteed. Besides, the electricity ordinance be stopped, they said, adding that the fine for stubble burning should also be scrapped.
It was also decided that none of the political parties will be allowed to join the protests as a speaker, according to Times Now.
“We have decided that we won’t allow any political party leader to speak on our stage, be it Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Aam Aadmi Party or other parties,” Phul said. “Our committee will allow other organisations, who are supporting us, to speak if they follow our rules.”
Opposition parties and some allies of the Narendra Modi government, too, have called the laws anti-farmer and pro-corporation.
But the government continues to insist that the legislation will bring about much needed reform in agriculture that will allow farmers the freedom to market their produce and boost production through private investment. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again showed his support to the laws in his radio address Mann ki Baat, saying the agricultural reforms have given farmers “new rights and opportunities”.
Shah, on the other hand, clarified that he never implied that the farmers’ agitation was politically motivated. “I never called the farmers’ protest politically motivated, neither I am calling it now,” he said at a poll rally for the civic elections in Hyderabad, according to ANI.
The farmers’ leaders, however, asked the government to stop laying down conditions, and assuming that the central leadership can convince them about the benefits of the new laws through any kind of dialogue, according to NDTV. The Centre should “straight come out with a proposal,” they said.
The farmers also raised concerns about the deployments of police force, saying their presence was “creating an atmosphere of terror and apprehension amongst the protesting farmers and the people of Delhi”.
Union Home Secretary writes to farmers organisations
Meanwhile, the Centre continued making appeals to the farmers to shift to Burari and said a high-level team of Union ministers is ready to hold talks with them at the capital’s Vigyan Bhavan once they move there, reported PTI.
In a letter to 32 farmers organisations, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla cited the cold temperatures and the Covid-19 outbreak, and said the farmers should move to the Burari ground where adequate facilities have been made for them.
He said the farmers have gathered along two major highways connecting Punjab and as a result, normal life and travel of common people have been affected. Bhalla said the farmers are also affected due to the cold, and that there is a possibility of the spread of the coronavirus as there is a large congregation of people.
“I request you to take all the farmers from the borders of Delhi to the ground at Burari where facilities have been created for them and they can hold their demonstration peacefully and police will permit it...As soon as you shift to the ground at Burari, the very next day a high-level committee of union ministers will hold talks at Vigyan Bhavan with the representatives of all farmers unions, with whom dialogue had taken place earlier.”— Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, PTI
- Farmers’ unions reject Amit Shah’s offer for early talks, want to go to Jantar Mantar to protest
- Agriculture reforms brought new rights, opportunities to farmers, says PM Narendra Modi
After protests escalated last week, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said he has invited representatives of the farmers for talks on December 3. Then Saturday, Shah said that the Centre is willing to hold talks with farmers’ groups if they are prepared to shift to the designated protest site at the Nirankari Samagram Ground in Burari area of North West Delhi.