Union Minister VK Singh on Tuesday sparked a row after he said that thousands of protestors against the Centre’s agricultural laws near Delhi “did not appear to be farmers in pictures”, ANI reported. Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party was quick to respond to Singh and asked him whether the farmers should come with a “plough and oxen”.

Singh, who is the minister of state for road transport and highways, also claimed that the farmers did not have a problem with the new laws. “What is in the interest of farmers has been done,” he was quoted as saying by the news agency. “Besides [the] opposition, people who get commission are behind it [protest].”

The Aam Aadmi Party hit back at Singh over his statement. “Should they [the protestors] come with plough and oxen to appear like farmers?” the party tauntingly asked Singh.

Meanwhile, the Centre on Tuesday called for another round of talks with the protesting farmers on December 3 after its meeting with the union leaders failed to break the impasse over the agricultural laws.

At the meeting, the government offered to set up a committee to look into the concerns raised by farmers. They refused to accept the proposal and remained adamant on their demand that the government withdraw the laws.

Leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have sought to discredit the farmers’ agitation by linking it to extremist elements. The BJP’s Information Technology Cell head Amit Malviya on Monday alleged that the protest had “Khalistani and Maoist” links. He, however, did not provide any evidence to support his claim.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had last week claimed that his government had “inputs” on presence of Khalistani separatists in the ongoing farmers’ agitation. His government has been heavily criticised for authorising the use of water cannons and tear gas on the farmers marching to Delhi.

The farm laws

The farmers are protesting against the 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 – that were passed in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.

Farmers and traders have also alleged that the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the laws 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.