‘Instead of solving issues, govt attempting to split our unity,’ say farmers at Tikri protest site

While older leaders have called for patience at Tikri, several of the younger leaders are convinced that the talks with the government will be inconclusive

‘Instead of solving issues, govt attempting to split our unity,’ say farmers at Tikri protest site
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Ashlin Mathew

Jogendra Nain, who heads one of the wings of Bharatiya Kisan Union-Haryana said if Prime Minister Narendra Modi can order Demonetisation and lockdown overnight, he can repeal the three farm laws too within a day if he wants.

Nain sat near the dais writing in a book, name after name of those who would be speaking at a makeshift stage erected after blocking a 10-km stretch at Tikri near the border between Delhi and Haryana on Friday.

He had come with thousands from Haryana to support their ‘brothers’ from Punjab, who had been protesting for more than two months against the three farm laws - The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

“Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said only Punjab farmers were protesting. That is not true. They have definitely led the protest, but we are supporting them. In the next few days, even more people will be joining. The Khap Panchayats have asked everyone to join too. Here you can see thousands of farmers sleeping under the open sky braving Covid-19. Doesn’t the Prime Minister care?” asked Nain.

Behind him, tractors and trucks laden with rations and supplies had lined up on either side of the road, just below the overhead metro track. The line began from near the Tikri metro station till just before the Bahadurgarh station. On the right side of the side, mostly trucks from Punjab have been parked and on the left side, trucks from Haryana. It is evident as you walk down the road as on the left, after every 700 metres, there is a huddle of men smoking from hookahs, while on the right, mostly men and very few women are getting ready to prepare the day’s meals.

Tikri protests have been confined to the main road as there is no space to spread out unlike the protest at Singhu border, where in addition to blocking an arterial road into the capital, large swathes of land have been taken over by the protestors where their trucks, trolleys and tractors have been parked.

On Wednesday, December 3, leaders of 35 farmers’ unions had met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, but the talks ended inconclusively. The farmers have been insisting on complete roll back of the three laws, but the government wants to talk only about amendments to the Acts.

“Instead of solving our issues, the government is attempting to split us. They are insisting that it is for the economic freedom of farmers. Do they know more than us about farming? They only want to listen to corporates from whom they have taken money,” asserted Nain.

On Wednesday, the Delhi Police issued a notice under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code to All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah, who is part of the delegation meeting the Central ministers. They named him as an accused for protesting against these laws at Jantar Mantar on September 20. This drew a sharp response from several farmer leaders as they found the timing suspicious.

While the older leaders have called for patience at Tikri, several of the younger leaders are convinced that the talks with the government will be inconclusive. “We do not think that the talks will lead to much. They are simply biding their time to see if they can slap cases on us. They should realise that if they threaten us, we also know what to do. Water, electricity and supplies to Delhi go through Tikri,” said Vikas Sisar, district president of Bharatiya Kisan Sangharsh Samiti. He is a farmer, who grows wheat and sugarcane.

“This government is saying that this is a protest of only ‘pagadiwalas’. This is a protest of all farmers. This is a ‘gammandi sarkar’. Farmers from Haryana are also on their way. We all had voted for Dushyant Chautala as he called himself a farmer’s son. Now, he is with the BJP and he is not doing anything either. They forget us once they are elected,” added Sisar, with anger brimming in his voice

Many of the younger protesters have joined instead of their parents as it is the sowing season. Maninder Pal Kaur, a Class XII student from Bathinda in Punjab, came with her brothers, while her father was managing the farm. “I can study here too as now its online classes. We had to come here because it’s a matter of our livelihood. We live with the money earned from farming. Many of us have small land holdings. This law will push many of the poorer farmers into penury as these laws encourage contract farming and moreover without the current practice of the minimum support price, we will not have any bargaining power with corporations,” explained Kaur.

Her concerns were echoed by many at Tikri, who had come ready to stay until the government withdrew the laws. If these laws remain, the future generations will not have lands to farm on, pointed out Nain.

All the while the slogan ‘Kisan Ekta, Zindabad’ rang in the background.

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Published: 05 Dec 2020, 8:00 AM
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