CHANDIGARH: Attempts were made to give the farmers and their agitation a bad name but the Republic Day violence has only strengthened it, said Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. He said that anti-social elements seem to have been sponsored and instigated the violence.
How has the Republic Day violence affected the farm movement?
As you can see, the Republic day violence has only strengthened the movement. That's what happens when you decide to destabilise a movement by breaking it. Attempts were made to give the farmers and their agitation a bad name by what seems to have been a sponsored violence, instigated by anti-social elements. All the major kisan unions had distanced themselves from the violence on the day it happened.
And the reason is obvious, why should farmers who had been agitating peacefully, first in Punjab for months and then for two months at the Delhi borders, suddenly resort to violence? They knew they would achieve nothing with violence. In fact they were aware that they would lose popular support once they gave up their peaceful agitation.
Further, the tightening of controls and the non-humanitarian acts of the central government against farmers in the wake of the Republic day violence has also backfired. The farmers have been pushed to the corner by such acts, which have brought a bad name to the entire country with even the UN taking notice of the developments at Delhi's borders, where Internet has been suspended, nails and barricades have come up as never seen before, and farmers have been deprived even of basic amenities like toilets, electricity and water.
With farmers refusing to come down from their maximalist demand of repeal of the laws, what is the way forward?
Firstly, let's not look at their demand as maximalist. Demands are either justified or not justified. And frankly, the demands of the farmers are totally justified in my opinion. The farm laws were introduced and enacted in a very unconstitutional manner, going completely against the spirit of federalism and democracy. So why should they not be repealed?
Even the union government has admitted that these laws had lacuna, which they say they are ready to address. They have even said they are prepared to put them in abeyance for a year-and-a-half, so why not just withdraw them and start afresh? As for the way forward, dialogue is the only way to resolve any issue in a democracy so the two sides should continue talking. And I am happy to note that both sides have indicated their willingness to continue talking on all issues of conflict.
Will you intervene if the Centre asks you?
I have said it earlier also that the farmers do not want any political mediation. They have been talking to the union government directly and have kept their agitation totally apolitical. If they don’t want any intervention from our side, we cannot do anything about it.
Will the farm protests be the election decider in the 2022 Punjab assembly polls?
The polls are still a year away and I hope the issue will be resolve long before that. I really hope the problem does not drag on and both sides sit across the table once again to find an early resolution.
Do you think farmers should accept the government’s proposal to halt laws for 18 months?
The farmers know what they want and why. They understand the dangers and implications of the farm laws better than anyone else so the decision has to be left to them. If the farmers feel they will not accept anything less than a repeal, then frankly I don't see why the central government should stand on its prestige. If they are ready to halt the laws for 18 months then why not just revoke them and bring fresh laws after due discussion with all stakeholders?
How do you view Punjab governor’s role in sitting over the state bills since October 2020?
It's very unfortunate. The governor should have simply forwarded the Bills to the President for assent immediately after all parties of Punjab submitted the same to him, the very day when the Vidhan Sabha passed the Bills. It is against the spirit of the constitution and beneath his high office to sit over the Bills.
The Bills were passed under Article 254 (ii) of the constitution and are hence totally valid. During the UPA regime, several BJP-ruled states had passed amendments to centrally-enacted laws on land acquisition and the same were approved by then President Pranab Mukherjee in 2014.
No Governor sat over those amendments. My government has now decided to bring the Bills again in the Assembly and we will send them again to the governor, who is then constitutionally bound to forward them to the President.