Thousands of farmers attend ‘maha panchayat’ at Baghpat in western UP, resolve to continue agitation

This was the third ‘maha panchayat’ of farmers in the region after a massive congregation in Muzaffarnagar on Friday and in Mathura on Saturday

NH Photo by Ashlin Mathew
NH Photo by Ashlin Mathew

Ashlin Mathew

After the ‘mahapanchayat’ in Muzaffarnagar, farmers gathered in Baghpat on Sunday in large numbers for the ‘sarv khap panchayat’ to express solidarity with those protesting at Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri borders.

Baghpat is the bastion of Jat leader Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary and support for them was heard in all the speeches given by the farmer leaders at protest site.

The meeting which was called for 11 am gained momentum around 1 pm when leaders, youngsters and older men began reaching the site on tractors and trolleys.

NH Photo by Ashlin Mathew
NH Photo by Ashlin Mathew

In the aftermath of unruly scenes in parts of the tractor rally taken out by farmers on January 26, the farmers were on the back foot at all borders. The UP government had ordered removal of the farmers from all protest sites in the state within 24 hours on January 28. A large contingent of police was sent to Ghazipur to remove the farmers at night.

Faced with loss of face, Bharat Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait made an emotional appeal that he was ready to face bullets but not go home without the repeal of the three farm acts, which struck a chord amongst the members of his community. In a couple of hours they mobilised and began to arrive in large numbers, changing the sombre mood at Ghazipur.

“Modi government has underestimated our anger, determination and resolve. These three farm acts will only help the corporates. We have not even got our sugarcane dues for the last 14 months,” said Mahendra Kumar, a 60-year-old farmer who has only a three acre field.

NH Photo by Ashlin Mathew
NH Photo by Ashlin Mathew

There was considerable anger against the ruling party. “In 2022, this government will be brought down. Farmers are united. This government which promised to pay us dues in 14 days is yet to pay us for more than one year. This would not have happened is a Jat leader would have been heading the state. If RLD’s Ajit Singh was in power, we would not have faced such trouble. We will not tolerate this insult,” said a farmer leader.

Several senior farmers who had gathered around at the ground said that villagers will be told to not entertain BJP leaders anywhere and to shun them.

BKU (Tikait) president Naresh Tikait had earlier said it was mistake that they had supported BJP’s Sanjiv Balyan for the Lok Sabha polls.

Incidentally, Ghazipur was considered the weaker link amongst the protest sites because it was led by Rakesh Tikait, who had supported BJP and many farmers believed he might ‘flip’ or was still a BJP ‘agent’.

NH Photo by Ravi Raj
NH Photo by Ravi Raj

Two more ‘mahapanchayats’ have been planned in UP’s Bijnor in February 1 and Haryana’s Jind district on February 3 to mobilise support for the farmers’ agitation.

The farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and parts of UP, have been protesting at Delhi's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of 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.

The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporations.

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Published: 31 Jan 2021, 6:40 PM