Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar on Saturday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention may help resolve the farmers’ crisis, Hindustan Times reported.
Pawar also urged the protesting farmers to look for ways to end the deadlock over the three agricultural laws. “In my opinion, the central government should take an initiative and a senior-level minister should intervene,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “I don’t want to disrespect Narendra Singh Tomar [the Union agriculture minister] but the prime minister [Modi] or defence minister [Rajnath Singh] should intervene then the issue may be resolved.”
The senior leader criticised the police crackdown on farmers’ protest sites at Delhi’s borders. The protest sites have been heavily barricaded, with nails dug into the roads. The government has also cut the protestors’ access to internet.
“It has never happened in the country since independence,” Pawar said, according to Hindustan Times. “The government took extreme measures which also shows their attitude. Whenever farmers come out on streets like this then the government is expected to show some consonance.”
Pawar took a dig at the Centre for saying that global criticism of the clampdown on the farmers’ protest was an attempt to intervene in India’s internal matters. “I remember when the Prime Minister was on a US tour, he declared that [Donald] Trump will be elected for a second term and a few sections appreciated him,” he said. “Today, people from abroad are also reacting the same way because of the same reason.”
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Several international personalities have expressed solidarity with the the protesting farmers. Pop star Rihanna’s tweet about internet cuts at protest sites near Delhi was instrumental in drawing global attention to the agitation in India. The Indian government, on the other hand, launched a counter campaign on Twitter, roping in cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, actor Akshay Kumar and others to voice its stand on the farmers’ agitation.
Pawar advised the cricketer to be careful while talking about any other field, ANI reported. “Many people have reacted sharply to the stand taken by them [Indian celebrities],” he said. “I would advise Sachin [Tendulkar] to exercise caution while speaking about any other field.”
The NCP chief also spoke out against the labelling of farmers as extremists. “The ruling party has taken a stand to defame farmers by calling Khalistanis and terrorists,” he was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times. “These agitators are farmers who have made the country self-sufficient in food production. Calling them with names is not a quality of civilised culture.”
Earlier on Saturday, farmers blocked roads across the country to intensify their protest against the new farm laws. Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait gave the Centre time till October 2 to repeal the laws, and said the protestors will not turn back till then.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi’s border points for over two months, seeking the repeal of agricultural laws passed in September. The protests had largely been peaceful but violence erupted on January 26, when a tractor rally planned to coincide with Republic Day celebrations turned chaotic. At least 125 protestors were arrested after the violence and several are reportedly missing.