Farmer unions on Monday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment in Rajya Sabha, referring to protestors as “andolan jeevi” (those living off agitations). While replying to the Motion of Thanks to the president’s address in Parliament on Monday, the prime minister had said it was important to identify “andolan jeevis” and protect the nation from them.

Responding to the remark, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions, said the comments were insulting to the farmers, reported NDTV. “It is andolans [protests] that have liberated India from colonial rulers, and that is why we are proud to be andolan jeevi,” the farmer body said, in an official statement.

The farmer union took on the Bharatiya Janata Party and claimed that it had historically been against agitations.

“It is the BJP and its predecessors that never did any andolan against the Britishers... they were always against the andolans [and] they are still scared of public movements,” the Samyukt Kisan Morcha said, according to NDTV. “ Farmers will be more than happy to get back to farming if the government accepts their legitimate demands. It is the government’s adamant attitude that is creating more andolan jeevis.”

Farmers were not convinced with the prime minister’s assurance on the Minimum Support Price regime either, pointing out that there was currently no law in place to guarantee the remuneration on agricultural produce.

“There are no laws now, so businesspersons loot farmers,” Rakesh Tikait of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, told the Hindustan Times. “Authorities have tried to taint the movement by various means. The movement is not led by political leaders, but farmers who demand the repeal of these laws.

Satnam Singh Sahni, General Secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Doaba) said that the prime minister should be present for the next round of talks between the Centre and farmer bodies. In his speech, Modi had asked the farmer bodies to resume talks with the government to resolve the deadlock on the matter.

“If the prime minister wants the next round of talks, we are ready for it,” he told the Hindustan Times. “But we urge the PM that he should hold the meeting with us, understand the concerns of the farmers, and end this deadlock.”

Additional police force withdrawn from Delhi borders

Meanwhile, Delhi Police on Monday withdrew its additional force deployed at the borders of the Capital, since the tractor rally on January 26, PTI reported. On Monday, special commissioner of police (operations and licensing) Muktesh Chander issued a message to all units, asking them to go back to their respective districts or units.

“The situation at the Singhu border is under control and peaceful,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (outer-north) Rajeev Ranjan told the Hindustan Times. “We have adequate force deployed round-the-clock at the border to deal with any contingency.”

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.

Since then, the authorities have launched a crackdown on the demonstration, fortifying their protest sites with iron spikes and steel barricades to stop demonstrating farmers from entering the Capital. The government also restricted access to mobile internet services in these areas.

Police complaints against farmer leaders followed, as did arrest of hundreds of protestors and registration of first information reports against journalists.