Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik on Wednesday said he would continue to support the protests by farmers against the government’s agricultural laws even if he was removed from his post, NDTV reported.

In an interview to NDTV, Malik predicted that the Bharatiya Janata Party will lose support in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana because of the contentious farm laws. “Even when a dog dies it is condoled but 250 farmers have died, yet no one expressed condolences,” the governor said.

He reiterated that he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah about the protests. On Sunday, he had urged the government not to use force against farmers. He also claimed that he had intervened to ensure that farmer leader Rakesh Tikait was not arrested.

Malik told the television channel that the Centre should initiate talks with the protesting farmers to resolve the matter. “The farmers should not be sent back empty-handed,” he added.

On whether he was worried about speaking against the saffron party, Malik said, “If the government thinks I am harming them then I will step aside. I will speak even if I am not a governor.”

Malik, who is known to speak candidly, said those who want to “harm” the Modi-led government were the ones who do not want a resolution to the crisis. “I cannot bear to see the state of these farmers,” he told NDTV. “BJP leaders are unable to leave their villages as people are beating MLAs. My statements will not harm the party rather the opposite as the farmers will feel that someone is speaking up for them.”

Malik was the governor of Jammu and Kashmir when the Centre scrapped its special constitutional status and split it into two Union Territories in August 2019. He was transferred to Goa soon after that, and in 2020 he was shifted to Meghalaya.

Farm law protests

Thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi since December, demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeal the three laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies. Farmers fear the policies will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime.

The farmers have hunkered down with supplies that they say will last them for months, and have resolved to not leave until their demands are met.

Several rounds of talks between the government and farm leaders took place, but none of them could manage to end the deadlock. In January, the Supreme Court had suspended the implementation of the laws until further orders.

The movement poses one of the biggest challenges to Modi since he took power in 2014, as he faces criticism from all sides, including from some allies of the BJP. The Shiromani Akali Dal of Punjab quit the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the Centre in September itself.

Another sign of impact was the Congress’ spectacular performance in the urban body polls held in Punjab last month.