Farmers on Sunday held prayer meetings across the country to pay their respects to the protestors who died during the ongoing agitation against the new agricultural laws, reported The Hindu. The call for the “Shradhanjali Diwas [day of homage]” was given by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a joint front of farmer unions.
“The farmers and all sections of the people will pay homage to them from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on December 20 by organising condolence meetings, human chain and garlanding the photos of the departed fighters in more than one lakh villages across the country,” said All-India Kisan Sabha in a statement.
Hundreds of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at Delhi’s borders, blocking highways in giant demonstrations against the new legislations that they say will pave the way for corporate exploitation. Braving the harsh winter, they have hunkered down with supplies that can last weeks, saying they will not leave till the government abolishes the “black laws”.
Dozens of them have died, several of them due to the biting cold weather, as they camp out in the open in their tractors and trailers. While the exact toll was not known, the numbers are growing.
“As per the records 33 farmers who had been participating in the struggle have died since November 26 due to accidents, illness and hostile weather conditions,” the All-India Kisan Sabha said in a statement on Saturday. Manoj Yadav, director-general of police of Haryana, on Friday pegged the number of deaths at 25, according to Al Jazeera.
A Sikh priest died by suicide last week, saying he could not bear the anguish of the protesting farmers. In the note that he left behind, Singh said he was hurt to see that the government was not giving the farmers justice.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party’s leaders have tried to allay farmers’ concerns, maintaining the legislations will bring about much needed reform in agriculture, that will allow farmers the freedom to market their produce and boost production through private investment. But several rounds of talks have failed to resolve the crisis.
The government refused to repeal the legislations, offering to make amendments instead, while the farmers say they want nothing less than the laws to be scrapped. On December 9, farmers had rejected the Centre’s written proposal on the amendments to the three laws, and intensified their protests.
On December 18, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar penned down an eight-page open letter to the farmers, appealing to the farmers to trust the government and not “fall prey” to the “white lies” of the Opposition. The minister again assured the farmers that minimum support price will continue and the existing mandi system will be made stronger.
The All-India Kisan Sangarsh Co-ordination Committee on Saturday responded to the letter, saying the “attack launched by them” against the demands of the farmers and their movement over the past two days “showed they did not sympathise with the farmers” and had no intentions to resolve their problems. The letter also put forth a point-by-point rebuttal of various claims made by Tomar in his letter.