Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Sunday criticised the Narendra Modi government for its handling of the ongoing farmers protest, claiming that more than 50 people have lost their lives while taking part in the agitation.

“More than 50 protestors have died as a result of the government’s ignorance,” Sonia Gandhi said in a statement in Hindi. “Some of them even killed themselves but the Modi government is still unmoved.”

She also accused the government of being arrogant and indulging in cronyism.

“Never before has this country seen a government so arrogant which chooses to ignore the plight of not just the common man, but also the annadaatas [food providers],” Sonia Gandhi said. “It seems the government’s sole objective is to ensure profits for a handful of industrialists.”

The Congress chief expressed confidence that the farmers will not get bogged down by the government’s “thakaao aur bhagaao” [wear them out and drive them away] policy and urged the Union government to repeal the agriculture laws.

Earlier on Sunday, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi compared the ongoing farmers’ protest against the new agriculture laws with the agitation against indigo plantation during British rule in Bihar’s Champaran district.

“The country is once again going to suffer a Champaran-like tragedy,” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi. “Back then the British were the company bahadur, today it’s Modi’s friends. But each agitating farmer and labourer is a Satyagrahi, who will definitely take their rights.”

The Champaran Satyagraha of 1917, led by Mahatma Gandhi, is one of the more prominent movements of India’s freedom struggle. Under Gandhi’s leadership, farmers in Bihar, who were forced by the British to grow indigo in a part of their land with barely any payment for it, revolted using non-violent methods. The movement is often regarded as the first use of civil disobedience by Gandhi in India.

Meanwhile, the farmers’ protest entered its 39th day on Sunday, with another round of talks between the Centre and farmer unions scheduled to take place on January 4. After the sixth round of formal negotiations on Wednesday, the government and farm unions reached some common ground to address protesting farmers’ concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning, but the two sides remained deadlocked over the repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for the Minimum Support Price regime.

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.