Farmers on the border areas of Delhi and in states such as Punjab and Haryana plan to organise protests on Wednesday to mark six months of their protest against the Centre’s three agricultural laws passed by Parliament last year. They will hoist black flags wherever they are – on their cars, trucks or at their homes – to avoid crowds in view of the raging coronavirus pandemic.
The protesting farmers will observe Buddha Purnima in the morning and then raise flags, following which they will burn the effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said Gurnam Singh Chaduni, leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, Haryana. The farmers plan to observe May 26 as a “black day”.
“We have told people to protest wherever they are so we can avoid the protest sites from becoming crowded,” Chaduni told Scroll.in. “We are not doing a big program because of Covid-19. People will not come in lakhs.”
However, several farmers set off from Haryana and Punjab to Delhi on Sunday to join those protesting at the borders of the national Capital. Chaduni himself had 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 the Khanauri border in Sangrur district of Punjab.
Chaduni, 60, is among the leaders of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a coalition of 32 farmer unions, groups and association formed to protest against the farm laws.
He said it was important for farmers to continue protesting against the laws. “The government is not listening to us,” Chaduni said. “If these laws get implemented, then our livelihoods will be snatched away from us. We do not have any other option.”
Last year, farmers stormed into the bordering areas of the capital between November 25 and 26 braving barricades, batons and tear gas, to protest against the farming legislature they dubbed as “black laws”. Since then, thousands of them have settled down with their tractors and trolleys at Singhu and Tikri areas bordering Haryana and at Ghazipur bordering Uttar Pradesh.
The farmers have bitterly opposed the laws and believe that the laws will dismantle price safeguards and leave them at the mercy of corporations. Meanwhile, the Centre has maintained that the farm laws will provide more flexibility for farmers to sell their produce and improve crop pricing.
‘Government not listening’
In January, nearly two months into the protest movement, the Supreme Court suspended the implementation of the farm laws. It instead set up a committee and tasked it to consult stakeholders and assess the impact of the laws.
At the time, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha had rejected the court-appointed committee and termed the experts on the panel as “pro-government”. They also said that the committee had not contacted them to hold any consultations.
Chaduni said the Supreme Court’s suspension of the laws did not do much to assure farmers. “It can be implemented later and then we will not have any other option, so we will stay till we are heard,” he said.
Talks between farmers groups and the central government to resolve the protests came to a complete deadlock after farmers rejected the Centre’s offer to suspend the laws for two years. The last time both sides met was on January 22.
Since then, most farmer leaders have said they were willing to speak to the government again. “We have always been ready to speak to the government,” said Chaduni. “We have never refused. The government should not be stubborn and should listen to farmers.”