Punjab-based farmers protesting against the agricultural laws have sent legal notices to Union minister Giriraj Singh, Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Madhav for allegedly making defamatory statements against the agitation, ANI reported on Saturday.

The farmers have sought unconditional apology from the three saffron party leaders. “Statements by several political leaders have not been issued in good faith or with responsibility, but mala fide intent and for oblique motives to further vested interests and defame the protesting farmers,” the notice said.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party’s leaders have tried to allay farmers’ concerns about the new laws, some of them have called the farmers “misguided”, alleging they are being motivated by separatists and “anti-national” elements.

A farmer from Amritsar, Jaskaran Singh Bandesha, sent the legal notice to Giriraj Singh and sought an apology from him for an interview. “There are no talks about farmers’ benefit at the protests,” Singh had claimed. “In the protests, foreign powers have also come in. At the protests, Khalistan and Sharjeel Imam’s posters are being put up.”

Another farmer from Jalandhar, Ramneek Singh Randhawa, sent a notice to Nitin Patel for alleging that “anti-national elements” were giving money to the protestors. “In the name of farmers, anti-national elements, terrorists, Khalistanis, communists and pro-China people have sneaked into the agitation,” the Gujarat deputy chief minister had said. “We can see them having pizza, pakoda...All that is coming free of cost.”

Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu, a farmer from Sangrur, sent a legal notice to Madhav for allegedly making a defamatory statement against the protests via his Twitter handle.

Meanwhile, the newly appointed Aam Aadmi Party’s Punjab co-incharge Raghav Chadha on Saturday announced that his party was providing legal assistance to farmers in these three cases.

“AAP vowed to extend legal aid to farmers who wish to take legal recourse against pre-meditated smear campaign by BJP to discredit farmers protest,” said Chadha, who is on a visit to the state. “As promised, AAP helps farmers send defamation notices to Union minister Giriraj Singh, Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and BJP’s Ram Madhav.”

Farm law protests

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for over a month against the laws now, withstanding temperatures dropping to two to three degrees Celsius.

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. The law passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.

During the sixth meeting on December 30, the farmer organisations and the Centre reached an agreement on the decriminalisation of stubble burning and safeguarding electricity subsidies – two of the four matters. However, deadlock continues on the two main demands of farmers – repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support price system.