Sixteen Opposition parties, including the Congress, on Thursday said they have decided to boycott the president’s address to the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament in solidarity with the farmers protesting against the farm laws. President Ram Nath Kovind will address the joint sitting on Friday.

In a joint statement, the parties said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bhratiya Janata Party government have remained “arrogant, adamant and undemocratic” in their response to the farmers’ demand of repealing the agricultural laws. The parties also demanded the withdrawal of the three contentious legislations.

“The three farm laws are an assault on the rights of the states and violate the federal spirit of the Constitution,” the statement said. “If not repealed, these laws will effectively dismantle the edifice of National Food Security that rests upon – MSP [minimum support price], government procurement and Public Distribution System.”

The parties said that the farm bills were brought without holding any consultation with states or farmers’ union and lacked a countrywide consensus. “Parliamentary scrutiny was bypassed and the laws were pushed through muzzling the Opposition, in brazen violation of Parliamentary rules, practices and conventions,” the statement read. “The very constitutional validity of these laws remain in question.”

The Opposition parties also alleged that the central government agencies had a role orchestrating the violence that broke out during the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day. They have demanded an impartial iniquity into the incident. They said that the protests have remained largely peaceful except Tuesday’s incident, which was condemned unequivocally. The parties also expressed sadness over the injuries sustained by the Delhi Police while handling the situation.

They said that while the farmers are braving cold and heavy rain during their protests, the Centre has remained unmoved and responded to them with water cannons, tear gas and baton-charging. “Every effort has been made to discredit a legitimate mass movement through government-sponsored disinformation campaign,” they alleged.

List of Opposition parties boycotting president’s address

  1. Indian National Congress
  2. Nationalist Congress Party
  3. Jammu & Kashmir National Conference 
  4. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam 
  5. All India Trinamool Congress 
  6. Shiv Sena
  7. Samajwadi Party
  8. Rashtriya Janata Dal 
  9. Communist Party of India (Marxist) 
  10. Communist Party of India
  11. Indian Union Muslim League 
  12. Revolutionary Socialist Party 
  13. Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party 
  14. Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam 
  15. Kerala Congress (M) 
  16. All India United Democratic Front 

Republic Day violence

Dramatic scenes unfolded in Delhi on Tuesday as farmers protesting against the agricultural laws clashed with the police, who used tear gas and batons to control them. One protestor was killed in the clashes in Delhi’s ITO area. The Delhi Police said 394 of its officers had been injured across the city.

The police have alleged that farmer leaders made inflammatory speeches, and were involved in the violence during the tractor parade. Farmers have denied the allegations and blamed “antisocial elements” for the chaos.

However, several farmer leaders, including Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav and Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Haryana unit President Gurnam Singh Chaduni, were named in one of the first information reports filed by the police.

Twenty-five criminal cases were filed in connection with the violence, and 19 persons have been arrested so far. The police have also detained around 200 protestors on charges of rioting, damaging public property and attacking its personnel.