Opposition parties on Sunday expressed solidarity with the protesting farmers, who are demonstrating against the newly-passed agricultural laws, and said they would support the call for a countrywide shutdown, or “Bharat Bandh” on December 8, PTI reported.
Political parties that have extended their support to the agitation include – the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress and Left outfits – Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Revolutionary Socialist Party and All India Forward Bloc. Telangana Rashtra Samithi also announced that it would actively participate in the bandh to ensure it is successful.
In Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led opposition bloc, too, extended support to the countrywide shutdown, saying their demand for repealing the three legislations was “totally justified”. It appealed to farmers’ unions, traders’ bodies, government employees’ associations, labour unions and others in the state to extend “grand support” to the bandh and make it a success on Tuesday.
Besides, worker and trade unions – Indian National Trade Union Congress, All India Trade Union Congress, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, All India United Trade Union Centre and Trade Union Coordination Centre – have also lent their support to the farmers’ stir, according to the Hindustan Times.
Parallel protests will also be held in parts of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, the newspaper reported. Farm unions have appealed to farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana borders to join them as well.
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.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have camped out at the entrance to Delhi for over ten days, demanding the government should abolish the new legislations. They fear the new policies could pave the way for the government to stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of big corporations.
The Centre, which claims the laws would revitalise India’s agrarian economy by boosting produce, has made several attempts to placate the farmers. But five rounds of talks have failed to break the impasse so far. The agitation continued and another round of negotiations is scheduled for December 9.
The call for a bandh was given on December 4, a day before the farmers and the government met for their fifth round of talks. As part of the agitation, farmers said they would “block all the roads leading up to Delhi.” The toll plazas will also be occupied and protests against the central government and corporate houses will intensify.
What are the parties saying
At a press conference on Sunday, Congress leader Pawan Khera said the party would give “its whole-hearted support” to the Bharat Bandh. “All our district headquarters and Pradesh headquarters will participate in this bandh,” he added. “They will hold demonstrations and ensure that the bandh is successful.”
Khera said the entire world was witness to the plight of Indian farmers. “The entire world is seeing the horrible sight of farmers sitting outside the capital in the middle of the night in winters waiting for the government to listen to them,” he said.
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The Congress has been opposed to the new legislations since day one, claiming that the laws are exploitative, anti-poor and anti-farmer.
Khera on Sunday renewed his criticism of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. “In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the government in June surreptitiously brings ordinances,” he said. “What was the hurry? The entire country was focussed on the fallout of Covid-19, but the government was busy surreptitiously bringing ordinances to help its industrialist-corporate friends.”
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also spoke in support of the farmers on Sunday, saying the Congress stood united with them in their struggle. “We will wholeheartedly support the Bharat Bandh call,” Surjewala told reporters, according to ANI. Senior Congress leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the party was committed to the farmers. He said that former party chief Rahul Gandhi has been an “ardent supporter” of farmers and every Congress worker stands with him in “taking this cause of farmers to every corner of the nation”.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that Aam Aadmi Party workers across the country will support the countrywide strike, as he appealed to all the citizens to support the farmers.
Party leader and Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai said all volunteers and workers will participate in the strike. ‘This is not just the farmers but for all countrymen,” Rai said in a video message. “India is an agricultural country and if farmers are unhappy then the country is affected. I appeal to all to join the protest.”
In Telangana, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, too, lended his support to the Bharat Bandh, saying the farmers were protesting legally. In a press release, Rao recalled that the TRS had opposed the agriculture bills in Parliament as well, while they were being passed, and had argued that the legislations would harm the interests of farmers.
A joint statement was also released by the CPI, CPI(M) and CPM(M-L), Revolutionary Socialist Party and All India Forward Bloc, which said: “The Left parties extend their solidarity with and support to the ongoing massive agitation by Kisan organisations from all over the country against the new Agri laws. The Left parties extend their support to the call given by them for a Bharat Bandh on December 8.”
Meanwhile, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam announced that it would take part in the ongoing farmers protest, The Indian Express reported. In a statement, the party said that a 10-member team will reach Delhi soon to join the farmers.
On December 3, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also threatened to start a countrywide stir if the farm laws were not withdrawn immediately. “I am very much concerned about the farmers, their lives and livelihood,” she had said in a series of tweets. “GOI [government of India] must withdraw the anti-farmer bills. If they do not do so immediately we will agitate throughout the state and the country. From the very start, we have been strongly opposing these anti-farmer bills.”