More than one lakh farmers and workers gathered for a rally in Punjab’s Barnala district on Sunday, in a massive show of strength against the three agricultural laws, The Tribune reported.
The “Kisan Mazdoor Rally” was organised by Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union. It was one of the largest rallies held in Punjab since the protests against the farming laws shifted to Delhi’s borders. The police estimated that the rally was attended by 1,20,000 to 1,30,000 people, according to Reuters.
At the rally, union leaders urged the protestors to gather outside Delhi in huge numbers on February 27. “We came here [to Barnala] to make Punjab’s farmers aware of the movement in Delhi,” Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) leader Joginder Ugrahan told the news agency. “We came to tell them what’s happening there and what will happen next.”
Ugrahan said at the rally that it was for the first time that the people had challenged the Bharatiya Janata Party’s “fascist and communal government”, according to The Tribune. Ugrahan urged the protestors to stay united to protect their movement from the the interference of opportunistic political parties, The Times of India reported.
Ugrahan, while referring to the Republic Day tractor rally violence, said that the Centre had failed to communalise the farmers’ protest, according to The Times of India. He added that the farmers’ struggle against big corporations was “true patriotism”.
Farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal also called on the protestors to overcome caste and religious differences. “Farmers who are protesting on the borders of Delhi will script a victory with their patience and sacrifice,” he was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
Some of the protestors travelled several kilometres to attend the rally. “Our objective is that the black laws enacted by the Modi government are repealed,” Baljinder Singh, a 52-year-old farmer, who travelled 30 kilometres for the rally, told Reuters.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi’s border points for nearly three months now, seeking the withdrawal of the 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. More than 100 protestors were arrested in connection with the violence and several are missing.
The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path for the corporate sector to dominate agricultural. 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 laws are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.