Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Thursday mocked Union minister Raosaheb Danve for his comment that China and Pakistan were behind the farmers’ protests against the Centre’s three agricultural laws, ANI reported. Raut said that the Narendra Modi government should immediately conduct a surgical strike on the two neighbouring countries if it had any such information.

“If a Union minister has information that China and Pakistan have a hand behind farmers agitation, then, the defence minister should immediately conduct a surgical strike on China and Pakistan,” Raut was quoted as saying by the news agency. “The president, PM [prime minister], HM [home minister and the chiefs of the Armed Forces should discuss this issue seriously.”

Danve’s comment also drew sharp reactions from the farmers, who have been protesting near Delhi for over two weeks. All India Kisan Sabha General Secretary Hannan Mollah said the minister’s remark was an insult to the farmers. “The farmers are lead by their own interests and do not bother about any other forces,” he said.

The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee also criticised Danve. “Farmers are sometimes called Khalistanis, even traitors and now a minister Raosaheb Danve said China and Pakistan are behind the farmers’ movement,” the organisation’s President Manjinder Singh Sirsa said in a video message. “Instead of solving the problems of the farmers, some leaders are insulting the ‘annadata’ [foodgrain providers] by calling them traitors.”

Sirsa said ministers and BJP spokespersons must stop labelling farmers as anti-nationals. “The farmers grow food for the people and their children sacrifice their lives for the country,” he said. “Stop calling them anti-national.”

Danve on Wednesday claimed that the farmers’ protest was a conspiracy of China and Pakistan, PTI reported. He also likened the agitation against the farm laws to the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

“The agitation that is going on is not that of farmers, China and Pakistan have a hand behind this,” he claimed. “Muslims in this country were incited first. What was said [to them]? That NRC is coming, CAA is coming and Muslims will have to leave this country in six months. Did a single Muslim leave?”

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for the last 14 days against the laws. They have vowed to not go back till the Centre abolishes the “black laws”.

On Wednesday, farmers’ unions rejected a written proposal sent by the Centre, detailing the amendments it was willing to make to the three agriculture laws. They said they would intensify their agitation against the legislations with a nationwide protest on Monday. Members of the Krantikari Kisan Union also said that they will block the Delhi-Jaipur highway on Saturday.

Leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have sought to discredit the farmers’ agitation by linking it to extremist elements. On December 1, Union minister VK Singh had said that the protestors against the Centre’s agricultural laws near Delhi “did not appear to be farmers in pictures”.

Before that, BJP’s Information Technology Cell head Amit Malviya had alleged that the farmers’ protest had “Khalistani and Maoist” links. He, however, did not provide any evidence to support his claim.

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

Follow today’s live updates on the farmers’ protest.