Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait on Sunday said that the farmers protesting against the Centre’s new farm laws were ready to talk to the government if it invited them, reported PTI. However, he added that their demands remained unchanged.

So far, 11 rounds of talks have occurred between the government and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a coalition representing the protesting farmers. The last round of talks were held on January 22. However, no headway was reached to break the impasse.

“The demands are also the same – all three “black” farm laws should be repealed, a new law made to ensure MSP [minimum support price] for crops,” Tikait was quoted as saying in a statement issued.

Tikait’s comments came as a reply to Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij’s appeal to Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to begin talks with the protestors again. Vij had said that he was worried about the health of the protesting farmers along Delhi’s borders as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies.

On Saturday, Tomar urged the farmers to suspend their protest amid the second wave of Covid-19, adding that the Centre was ready to discuss their demands. “I had urged [farmer] union leaders many times to tell children and older people to go back home, in view of Covid-19,” Tomar told ANI. “Now, the second wave has also begun, farmers and their unions should follow Covid protocol. They should postpone the protest and have discussions with us.”

Tomar also said that the farmer unions continued their agitation despite the Centre’s efforts to discuss the matter. “The government has offered to discuss problematic areas and make changes in them when the government isn’t ready to talk or when the union doesn’t get favourable response,” he added, according to ANI. “Here unions decided to continue it anyway.”

Farmers protesting against the Centre’s agricultural laws near Delhi will march to the Parliament in May, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, said on March 31.

Thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi since November, demanding that the Centre 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 protest had been peaceful until violence broke out during the farmers’ tractor rally in Delhi on January 26. One person was killed and over 300 police officers injured as a section of protestors broke through barricades and poured into Delhi, clashing with the police who tried to push them back with tear gas and batons. A group of protestors also stormed the Red Fort.

The police clamped down on the protests after the violence. Heavy barricading was done at protest sites and internet services were suspended. Police complaints were filed against farmer leaders and journalists, and hundreds of protestors were arrested.

The protestors had planned a march to the Parliament on Budget Day on February 1, but postponed it view of the January 26 violence.