Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad was detained on Tuesday at his residence in Uttar Pradesh before he joined the nationwide farmers’ protest.
Farmers, predominantly from Haryana and Punjab, called a countrywide shutdown or a “Bharat Bandh”, in protest against the new agricultural laws. The protestors will meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday evening. So far, five rounds of discussions have failed to break the impasse, and the sixth meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.
“India has again gone into an era of emergency,” Azad tweeted in Hindi. “Our farmers need our support but the Uttar Pradesh Police have put me under house arrest since morning.”
In a separate tweet, Azad also claimed that along with the use of batons, the Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government was capable of firing guns. He added: “Your police can break our bones but cannot break our spirit. We will always stand with the farmers.”
Last week, Azad had joined the farmers, protesting at one of Delhi’s borders. He also criticised the Centre for using water cannons and tear gas against the demonstrators last month.
“The Centre tried to defame and stop the farmers’ agitation...Our mothers, children, elderly were stopped [from marching to Delhi] with water cannons, barbed wires, tear gas...they [farmers] are not terrorists, they are the backbone of our country,” he had then said. “We get food because of them...Such treatment [to farmers] shows how afraid the government is of the farmers’ movement.”
Various opposition parties came out in support of the farmers’ protest and their call for Bharat Bandh, or a countrywide strike, on Tuesday. These included the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress, the 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 and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also extended their support to the bandh call.
Meanwhile, leaders from 11 parties, including Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam parliamentarian TR Balu, Communist Party of India’s D Raja, Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Sitaram Yechury and Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Manoj Jha, are expected to meet Kovind on Wednesday.
The farm law protests
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 continues and another round of negotiations is scheduled for December 9.