Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah not to offend farmers protesting against the agriculture laws, reported PTI.
“None of the laws are in favour of [the] farmers,” he said. “The country in which farmers and soldiers are not satisfied, that country cannot move ahead. That country cannot be saved. Hence, the Army and farmers should be kept satisfied.”
The governor also claimed that he intervened to stop farmer leader Rakesh Tikait from being arrested.
Malik said that farmers will relent if the Centre gives a legal guarantee on the minimum support price for crops. “I recently met a journalist who is close to the PM,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “I told him I have already tried, it’s now his turn to explain that it’s a bad move to send back farmers by putting pressure on them and humiliating them. They have not come to go back. If they go back, they will remember it for 300 years. They want a guarantee on MSP. If the government gives MSP a legal backing, the protest will end.”
The governor said he was advised to not speak up about the farmers’ protest but he could not hold himself back. “Governors are meant to stay silent… They have to rest and not do any work,” he said. “They are expected to not say anything but it is my habit to speak up. When I saw what was happening to the farmers, I couldn’t stop myself from speaking up.”
Malik also said that farmers were getting poorer day by day while the salary of government officials and staff increases after every three years. “Whatever is sown by a farmer is cheap and whatever he buys is expensive,” he said. “They do not know how they are becoming poor. The ‘satyanaash’ [annihilation] of the farmers is taking place without their knowledge. When they go to sow [crops], there is some price, and when they go to reap it, the price decreases by almost Rs 300.”
He also took a dig at the Centre on its arguments in favour of the contentious legislation. “A lot of noise was created that farmers can now sell [crops] at any place,” Malik said. “This is a 15-year-old law. Despite this, when a farmer from Mathura goes to Palwal with wheat, there is a lathicharge on him. When a farmer from Sonipat comes to Narela, there is a lathicharge on him.”
In an apparent reference to Sikh farmers protesting against the laws, Malik said the community does not back down and forget things even after 300 years. “[Former Prime Minister] Indira Gandhi had got the “Mahamrityunjay Mantra Jaap” done for a month after Operation Blue Star,” he said. “[Janata Dal and former Congress leader] Arun Nehru told me that when he asked her that you do not believe is such rituals, then why are you performing these, she said you don’t know, I have damaged their “Akal Takht”. They will not spare me.”
As part of Operation Blue Star, which lasted several days, the Indian Army stormed the complex of the Harmandir Sahib, the holiest shrine for Sikhs, in Amritsar, to evict a group of Khalistani militants led by separatist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The military action on the shrine – in which several people, including Bhindranwale were killed – distressed Sikhs around the world. It led to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards four months later.
The farm laws protest
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi’s border points for more than 100 days, seeking the withdrawal of the agricultural laws passed in September. Farmers’ unions have also been organising “mahapanchayats” or farmers’ conclaves to mobilise support for the protest.
The farmers’ 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 went 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.