NEW DELHI / CHANDIGARH: Most farm unions on Monday decided to further escalate their protest if the Modi government does not accept their demand of repealing the three contentious agriculture laws in the December 9 talks. One of the steps being considered is not to participate in any future talks, sources said.
“We will intensify our agitation, if needed, after the December 9 talks. After the government is ready to repeal the laws, they can send us the proposal. Until then, we will continue with our agitation,” said Ashok Dhawale, president, All India Kisan Sabha.
The hardening of stance came after the farmers felt the Centre would not send the draft amendments it had proposed to make in the laws. The farmers are also peeved at ministers stressing that the laws would not be withdrawn, which is their core demand.
“We haven’t heard anything from the government yet so the future course of action will be taken jointly,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, a member of the All-India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee.
Another farm leader said they wanted to discuss among themselves the government’s proposals before the talks on Wednesday.
“We had asked the government that before the December 9 meeting, it should give us the draft amendments so that we can study them. But it seems the government is not interested in sharing the draft before the meeting,” he said.
Farm leaders said emergency services would not be affected during Bharat Bandh on Tuesday and appealed to their cadres not to force anyone to shut their shops or other establishments.
In view of the bandh on Tuesday, the Centre has issued a nationwide advisory, asking all states and Union territories to intensify security measures.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told a group of farmers from Haryana who came to meet him on Monday that the new farm laws are aimed at helping farmers get better price.
“If the agitation goes on, we will deal with it,” he reportedly said when the delegation told him the agitating farmers are being misled.
‘Bandh won’t affect emergency services’
Farm leaders have assured the public that the Bharat Bandh will not affect essential services. They have appealed to their cadre not to force anyone to shut shops or other establishments.
Addressing a press conference here, farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said the Centre will have to accept the farmers' demand of scrapping the new laws whose passage has sparked protests by thousands of farmers who have been camping at various border points of Delhi for the past 11 days.
The agitating farmers have already announced that they would occupy toll plazas between 11 am to 3 pm during the 'Bharat Bandh'.
Bhartiya Kisan Ekta Sangathan president Jagjit Singh Dallewala appealed to farmers to maintain peace and to not enter into any scuffle with anyone to enforce the bandh.
"People have been coming out in our support own their own. There is no need to force anyone to observe the bandh," he said.
"The 'chakka jam' will end at 3 pm, but the bandh will be observed through the entire day," he said.
The farmer leader said the 'bandh' will be effective across the country, but the major impact will be felt in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.
"Emergency services, such as healthcare facilities and ambulances, and marriage processions will be allowed during the bandh," Dallewala said.
"The Modi government will have to accept our demands. We want nothing less than withdrawal of new farm laws," Rajewal asserted.
He said the Punjabi diaspora in Germany, Australia, the US and other countries will also support the bandh through symbolic protests.
Referring to the Centre's offer to amend the contentious laws, another farmer leader, Darshan Pal, asked as to why the government was agreeing to amend the laws now after initially claiming they will benefit the peasantry.
"We want the government to reinstate the old farm laws even if the government thinks it is not good for farmers," Pal also said.
The protest has become a "material force" for the entire country, even for the Punjabi diaspora abroad, he said, and thanked all personalities and sportspersons who have returned their awards in their support.
All India Railwaymen's Federation's General Secretary Shiv Gopal Mishra said all its branches across the country will support the Bharat Bandh.
"The federation will give a call for a rail rook if the farmers' demands were not me he warned.
CPI leader Annie Raja said around 20 lakh members of the National Federation of Indian women across 28 states will participate in the bandh.
After Kejriwal, now Haryana Congress chief meets farmers
Haryana Congress president Kumari Selja on Monday met the protesting farmers near the Singhu border and extended full support to their ongoing agitation against the Centre's new farm laws.
Interacting with a group of farmers in the presence of Haryana State BKU chief Gurnam Singh Charuni, Selja said that "if farmers are happy, the country is happy".
"But the BJP-led government at the Centre is not concerned about the farmers," she said, as per a party statement here.
Selja, a former Union minister, said the Congress stands firmly with the farmers "in this fight for their rights".
"The Congress party has extended its support to the Bharat Bandh called by farmers on December 8," she said.
Haryana Congress MLA Shamsher Singh Gogi and other leaders of the party also accompanied her.
Selja said that in a country where a large population is engaged in agriculture, the prosperity and progress of farmers should be the priority of the government, "but the BJP government is not concerned about the farmers".
"It is only concerned about the benefit of its capitalist friends. The government will have to repeal these anti-agriculture black laws that benefit the capitalists. Besides this, nothing else will be acceptable. The government must accept the demands of the farmers," she added.
Selja said that "these black laws were strongly opposed by the Congress party".
"Since the beginning, the intention of the BJP-led central government was not right. Before the government enacted these black laws, no opinion was taken from the farmers. The voice of the opposition was also not heard."
"When the farmers began the agitation against these laws, they were not given attention by the government and then the farmers were forced to leave their homes and travel to Delhi. After this, the whole country saw how this government oppressed the farmers. Attempts were made by the government to suppress this movement," she alleged.
She said that farmers have been agitating for the last 12 days in this bitter cold, "but this government is completely drowned in arrogance".
"But the farmers are not alone in this fight. The whole country is standing with the farmers. The Congress party is constantly fighting for the rights of farmers under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi."
"In Punjab and Haryana, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi recently took out tractor rallies for the rights of farmers. In the Congress-ruled states, new laws have been enacted to protect the interests of farmers against these black laws," she said.
(With PTI Inputs)