Farmers protesting against the three new agriculture laws began their journey from different parts of Haryana and Punjab on Sunday to join those agitating at the borders of the national Capital. The farmers plan to observe May 26 as a “black day” to mark six months of their protest against the laws, NDTV reported, adding that thousands of farmers left Karnal on Sunday morning for Delhi.
Gurnam Singh Charuni, a leader of the farmers’ union Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni), tweeted photos of a procession of farmers in Haryana’s Karnal. The Twitter handle of Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta Ugrahan also posted photos of protestors on their way to Tikri from Khanauri border in Sangrur district of Punjab.
Many of the protestors, in the photos, could be seen without face masks and not maintaining physical distancing norms. Both Haryana and Punjab have been under a lockdown amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, the police in Haryana’s Hisar district have stepped up security as farmers have planned to picket the residence of the Inspector General of Police (Hisar range), NDTV reported. The move was planned to protest against the criminal cases filed against more than 300 farmers who were agitating against the farm laws.
The renewed actions by the farmers’ bodies came a day after they wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking to resume dialogue on the farm laws.
The Centre and farmers held 11 rounds of talks since December, but could not reach a resolution as the government did not agree to the demand of scrapping the laws altogether. The last round of discussion was held on January 22.
In January, the government had offered to suspend the farm laws for 12-18 months, which was rejected by the farmer unions. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of the laws till further orders and set up a committee to resolve the impasse.
Earlier this week, an umbrella body of the farmers’ unions, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, had warned the Centre not to “test their patience” and to instead initiate dialogue and accept their demands.
Thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi since November, demanding that the government repeal the three laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies. 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.
The farmers fear the policies will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime. The government, however, continues to claim that the three legislation are pro-farmer.
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 Bharatiya Janata Party. 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 Punjab urban body polls held in February.