As their agitation against the new agri laws completed seven months, farmers tried to march to governors' residence in several states on Saturday even as Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar appealed to them to end their stir and offered to resume talks on the provisions of the three legislations.
Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions protesting at various Delhi border points, claimed that farmers were detained in states like Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana during the protests. Terming Tomar's recent statements as perplexing and contradictory, it asserted that farmer leaders are not seeking some meaningless amendments in the central farm laws which have fundamental flaws and urged the people to punish the BJP.
Security was tightened in the national capital and other cities after the SKM said that representatives of farmers will submit memoranda of their demands, addressed to the President, to governors in various states. Hundreds of farmers from interiors of Uttar Pradesh, many of them on tractors, reached Ghazipur on Delhi's borders to mark the completion of seven months of the protest.
Led by Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, a group of protesters submitted a memorandum of their demands at the office of DCP Northeast Delhi after a virtual meeting with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal. The farmers then called off their march to Delhi, BKU media incharge Dharmendra Malik said.
"The memorandum included our demands for the withdrawal of the three new farms laws and for enacting a new law to ensure guarantee for MSP," he told PTI. Farmers from several parts of Haryana gathered at Gurdwara Nada Sahib in Haryana's Panchkula and headed towards Haryana Raj Bhavan, forcing their way through a layer of barricades, but were stopped at the Chandigarh-Panchkula border where the state police had deployed water cannon and trucks.
Where was the need to stop the protestors It was only a matter of handing over a memorandum to the Governor and not allowing even this much is a reflection of the undeclared emergency and authoritarian times we are going through," the SKM said in a statement. Police used water cannon to stop agitating farmers from Punjab, coming from the Mohali side, but they succeeded in entering Chandigarh after breaking through barricades.
Farmers from several parts of Punjab had assembled at Gurdwara Amb Sahib in Mohali before moving towards the Punjab Governor House. A majority of the protesters were without masks and were not following COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi's borders for seven months in protest against the three laws. 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 farmers' protest. Talks have not resumed following widespread violence during a tractor rally by protesting farmers on January 26.
"I want to convey through your (media) that farmers should end their agitation. ….Many are in favour of these new laws across the country. Still, some farmers have any issue with provisions of the laws, Government of India is ready to listen and discuss with them," Agriculture Minister Tomar tweeted. His earlier offer to resume talks had failed to break the deadlock as the farmers insisted on the scrapping of the laws and sought a legal guarantee on Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Tomar said the government had held 11 rounds of consultations with protesting farmer unions and has increased the MSP and is procuring more quantity at MSP. Addressing the protesters at Mohali, farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal Rajewal alleged that the central government intended to hand over farming to corporate houses.
Carrying flags of unions and raising slogans against the BJP-led government, protesters, including women and youths, marched towards Chandigarh on tractors and other vehicles or walked on foot. They were stopped near sector 17 by police where some buses were parked on the road to prevent protesters from heading towards Punjab Raj Bhavan.
Rajewal submitted a memorandum to the Chandigarh Deputy Commissioner. The memorandum urges the President Shri Ram Nath Kovind to direct the Union Government to immediately accept the legitimate demands of the farmers' movement, repeal the three anti-farmer laws and to enact a law that will guarantee remunerative MSP…, the Morcha said in a statement.
Protesters from the Haryana side, led by Haryana BKU (Chaduni) leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni and Morcha member Yogendra Yadav, gave a memorandum to another official. Gangster-turned-activist Lakha Sidhana, who was booked for his alleged involvement in the violence at the Red Fort on Republic Day during a tractor rally, also participated in the farmers' protests.
A Delhi court on Saturday granted interim protection from arrest to Sidhana. He had moved Delhi's Tis Hazari court seeking anticipatory bail in the case. Additional Sessions Judge Neelofer Abida Perveen posted the matter for July 3 and directed the police to not arrest him until then. Sidhana had earlier denied involvement in the Republic Day violence.
The Morcha said that Kheti Bachao, Loktantra Bachao Diwas (save agriculture, save democracy) is being marked all over India on Saturday on the completion of seven months of the farmers' protests and 46 years after the promulgation of Emergency in India in 1975". The government has maintained it is ready to amend the provisions of the laws.
The Supreme Court had in January put on hold the implementation of the three laws till further orders and has set up a committee to resolve the row. The committee has submitted its report. During the 10th round of talks held on January 20, the Centre had offered to suspend the laws for 1-1.5 years and form a joint committee to find solutions, in return for protesting farmers going back to their respective homes from Delhi's borders.
The three laws — The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 — were passed by the Parliament in September last year. Farmer groups have alleged that these laws will end the mandi and MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced."Farmers are ready to put in their energies to educate fellow citizens and appeal to them to punish BJP. That is the only lesson that the government seems to be willing to listen to", the SKM said after Saturday's protests. Meanwhile, the Delhi Police said on Saturday denied reports about the arrest of Tikait and said action will be taken against those spreading such fake news.