BHOPAL: Several activists planning to mark the completion of seven months of farm protests against the Centre's three new laws on Saturday claimed they were held under house arrest in Madhya Pradesh, an allegation refuted by police authorities.
Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh national convener Shiv Kumar Sharma 'Kakkaji' told PTI that police was deployed outside his house at around 8:30am with the intention of keeping him inside.
"They did not tell me about house arrest but I gauged that their intention was to keep me inside the house. Several colleagues told me the situation was similar at their homes with police remaining present outside. At 12:30pm, a delegation was allowed to submit a memorandum at a government office," Sharma said.
In a statement, Badal Saroj of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha said over 100 activists and farmers, including Medha Patkar and Dr Sunilam of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, were held under house arrest till 4pm at Gandhi Bhawan.
The statement claimed police allowed just five people to submit a memorandum of their demands after much insistence from activists and farmers present.
"But the delegation was not allowed to enter Raj Bhawan by the police and had to return from the gate," Saroj said.
Refuting the allegations, Bhopal Range Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) A Sai Manohar told PTI that none of the activists were kept under house arrest.
"There was no agitation possible in the pandemic due to protocol. If they were arrested, how could the activists reach the gate of Raj Bhawan? Nobody was placed under house arrest," he said.
Meanwhile, Sharma said, after Mission Bengal, protesting farmers will also take part in the Uttar Pradesh polls scheduled to be held next year.
Adding that they will not campaign for any party but will make people aware of the anti-people nature of the three agri marketing laws passed by the Centre.
He claimed mustard oil prices have gone up from Rs 70 per litre to Rs 200 per litre due to these new laws that allow traders and corporates to hoard limitless quantities.
Meanwhile, the Modi government has been harassing farmers not just for the last seven months of their protest against the three farm laws, but since it came to power seven years ago, the Congress alleged on Saturday.
Party chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also posed a set of seven questions to the central government, asking whether it was working on a policy to "tire and drive away, harass and defeat, defame and divide" the protesting farmers by conspiring against them.
The protest against the laws by farmers camping at various Delhi border points began in November last year and they are demanding that the legislations be withdrawn.
"Even though farmers are sitting on an agitation since November last year, the Modi government has been conspiring to harass them for the last seven years ever since it came to power in 2014 by bringing the Land Acquisition Act to take away their land," Surjewala said.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has appealed to protesting farmers to end their agitation, saying the government is ready to resume talks on the provisions of three legislations, which were enacted in September last year.
The government and farmer unions have held 11 rounds of talks so far, the last being on January 22, to break the deadlock and end the protest.
Talks have not resumed following widespread violence during a tractor rally by protesting farmers on January 26.
The Supreme Court has put on hold the implementation of the laws till further orders and has set up a committee to find solutions, and it has already submitted its report.
The Congress spokesperson alleged that the increase in prices of farm inputs and rise in diesel price are aimed at making farming unremunerative so that farmers sell their land.
He claimed that the government has taken a number of steps against farmers and these include reducing minimum support price (MSP) of crops, brouging farm insurance to benefit insurance firms, imposing Goods and Services Tax on farm inputs like fertilisers, pesticides, tractors, drips and sprinklers, and then bringing the three "black" farm laws, which are all aimed at breaking the market to benefit capitalists.
"On one hand (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi ji pretends to give Rs 6,000 annually and on the other hand, takes out Rs 20,000 per hectare from the pockets of farmers by increasing the cost of farming," he said.
Posing the seven questions to the government, Surjewala asked whether the Cost and Price Commission in its Kharif Report for 2021-22 has said the government keeps the sample size too small to calculate cost and this leads to incorrect cost price.
"Has the government not shut down grain markets continuously ever since the three black laws were implemented," he asked.
Is not the farmer free to sell his crop anywhere in the country outside 'mandis' and if this is true, then what is the need of the three laws, Surjewala asked.
"Hasn't hoarding stopped ever since the three agri laws have been suspended for implementation ? Then why does the Modi government want to give exemption to hoarders by implementing the three black laws that promote hoarding," the Congress leader asked.
Is the government not working on a policy to "tire and drive away, harass and defeat, defame and divide farmers by conspiring against them", the Congress leader asked.