Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday tore a copy of the contentious agricultural laws in the Assembly to mark his protest against the legislations, and asked the Centre to “not become worse than the British”.

“What was the hurry to get the farm laws passed in Parliament during the [coronavirus] pandemic?” Kejriwal asked at a special session of the Delhi Assembly called to discuss the farmer protests. “It has happened for the first time that three laws were passed without voting in Rajya Sabha...I hereby tear the three farm laws in this Assembly and appeal to the Centre to not become worse than the Britishers.”

The chief minister said he was “pained” to have to tear the copies of farm laws, reported PTI. “But I cannot betray the farmers of my country who have been sleeping on the streets in the cold when the temperature is 2 degrees Celsius,” he added.

During his speech, Kejriwal referred to the Pagri Sambhal Jatta movement, a farmers agitation spearheaded by revolutionary Bhagat Singh’s father during the time of British rule in India. The agitation was organised by Punjabi peasants against anti-farmer laws known as the Punjab Colonisation Act (Amendment), 1906.

“What is happening today has happened before in 1907,” Kejriwal said. “For nine months the farmers of Punjab had fought the British against the anti-farmer laws. At the time, too, the British government offered to make amendments to the laws. But the farmers remained adamant till the laws were repealed after nine months.”

The chief minister wondered how many more sacrifices would it take for the government to finally accept the demands of the farmers. “Every farmer has become Bhagat Singh today,” he added. “Almost every day, a farmer is attaining martyrdom...20 protesting farmers have died so far. I want to ask Centre how many sacrifices farmers will have to make, to get their voices heard?”

The Aam Aadmi Party chief also accused the Centre of misleading the farmers. “The government is saying that they are reaching out to farmers and trying to explain the benefits of farm bills,” he said. “Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister [Adityanath] told farmers that they’ll benefit from these bills as their land won’t be taken away. Is that a benefit?”

He also claimed that due to the three new laws “big capitalists will sell produce at a higher rate”, which will lead to price rise.

The Assembly then passed a resolution against the legislation by voice vote, following which, AAP legislators trooped into the well of the House, tore copies of the laws and raised slogans demanding that the government abolish the laws.

After the ruckus, Speaker Ram Niwas Goel adjourned the House proceedings till 5.15 pm. When the House reconvened, the AAP MLAs again gathered in the well, and proceedings were adjourned once more till Friday 11 am.

Later, AAP legislators also burnt copies of the farm laws on the Assembly premises. Speaking to reporters after the session, Kejriwal said that the Delhi Assembly had rejected the three “black laws”, and appealed to the Centre to repeal them.

Kejriwal doing cheap theatrics, say Opposition leaders

Former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Thursday accused Kejriwal of “indulging in cheap theatrics” by tearing copies of the farm laws, PTI reported. Alleging hypocrisy, Badal said that the Aam Aadmi Party government was among the first in the country to notify one of the farm laws on November 23.

Though Kejriwal had a reputation of being a “dramebaaz”, this time he indulged in “cheap theatrics” and “unparalleled hypocrisy”, Badal said in a statement. The former minister said she found it “strange” that the chief minister had “suddenly discovered” that farmers are sitting out in freezing temperatures.

“The Delhi chief minister is only shedding crocodile tears in a desperate bid to wipe away the blot he has put on his name by rushing to notify the farm laws on the directions of the central government.” Badal added. “These dramas however won’t help.”

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Meenakshi Lekhi also hit out at the Delhi chief minister, and like Badal, pointed out that his government had notified one of the three legislations on November 23, reported ANI.

“Now they are tearing copies of the same act in the Delhi Assembly,” she said at a press conference. “This is opportunistic politics. The Delhi chief minister is the new chameleon, he can just change colours without qualms.”

Follow today’s live updates of the farmer protests here

Farm laws

The negotiations between farmers’ groups and the Centre has not progressed, as the last meeting, scheduled to be held on December 9, was cancelled. Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for the last 20 days. Both the government and farmer leaders have reiterated their positions and dialed up the rhetoric, but have not made no concrete efforts to resume discussions to resolve the deadlock.

The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.

The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies.