‘Need to fight for farmers’ rights’: Unanimity prevails at all-party meeting convened by Capt Amarinder Singh

The meeting, which was boycotted by the BJP, was attended by Congress, AAP, SAD, Lok Insaaf Party, SAD Democratic Party, BSP, CPI and CPI (M) among others

All-party meeting convened on Tuesday by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh
All-party meeting convened on Tuesday by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh

Bipin Bhardwaj

Unanimity prevailed at the all-party meeting convened on Tuesday by Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh on the need to sink political differences to stand unitedly with farmers in their fight against the three farm laws, with the message that “we are all together in this battle”.

The meeting saw a host of suggestions from participants of all parties, ranging from an independent probe into the Red Fort violence, a joint meeting with the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister seeking their intervention for the resolution of the crisis, appointment of a state observer at Delhi’s borders, and joining the farmers at the protest site without making a political statement, among others, an official spokesperson of the Chief minister's office said.

The meeting, which was boycotted by the BJP, was attended by Congress, AAP, SAD, Lok Insaaf Party, SAD Democratic Party, BSP, CPI and CPI (M). AAP, however, walked out at the fag end of the meeting over its unrealistic demand of sending Punjab Police to Delhi’s borders for providing security to farmers.

The meeting started with a two-minute silence in remembrance of those who had died during the agitation so far. As of date, 88 farmers from Punjab had reportedly lost their lives in these protests, said the Punjab Chief Minister.

Underlining the need for unanimity against the “big conspiracy hatched against Punjab”, Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar pointed out that whenever Punjab had faced any challenge, external or internal, everyone had stood together to counter it.

“Our political differences will stay, but in these testing times, we all need to come together again,” he said, terming as unfortunate BJP’s decision to boycott the meeting, where it should have put forth its view-point. He recalled that Punjab Vidhan Sabha had unanimously passed a Resolution rejecting the farm laws and all parties had accompanied the Chief Minister to meet the Punjab Governor.

Jakhar hit out at the Central government over the situation prevailing at the Delhi’s borders, pointing to pictures that appeared on Tuesday in the media, of Delhi Police personnel standing with steel rods and cemented blockade and spikes on roads next to protest sites. Terming the images as appalling, he said these pictures were reminiscent of Chinese troops standing at Galwan Valley.

What happened at Red Fort was condemnable but it has to be investigated properly to identify and expose those responsible for the violence and for bringing a bad name to the farmers’ agitation, he said.

He also lashed out at the Union government over name-calling against farmers, which had started from the first day of the agitation with farmers being called hooligans, terrorists, ‘Khalistanis’ and anti-nationals.

Jakhar slammed the Central government, which had falsely accused Punjab of ‘firing guns from the farmers’ shoulders’, for being responsible for punitive measures against the state in the form of economic blockade, suspension of rail services, stoppage of RDF etc. Punjab suffered Rs 36000 crores in losses due to the agitation, he added.

Complimenting the farmers for their peaceful agitation, which he said even the Supreme Court had appreciated, Jakhar said the protests that had been going on since the ordinances were issued had now taken the form of a tsunami and had reached Delhi’s borders.

Jakhar also ridiculed the Sangh Parivar for raising a hue and cry over the hoisting of ‘Nishan Sahib’ at Red Fort, alleging that RSS did not allow the national flag to fly over their headquarters for decades but was raising a ruckus now with the sole purpose of alienating Punjab.

The PPCC president called upon all parties to unite to save the interests of the farmers from the farm laws, which were guided by the spirit of the Shanta Kumar committee. He observed that Union minister Nitin Gadkari had also termed MSP the biggest burden on the country’s economy.

Calling for a repeal of the farm laws and the safe return of the farmers to their homes, he said “we have to send a message to the country that Punjab is together”, with a strategy to politically isolate BJP.

Endorsing the views of Jakhar, Bhagwant Mann of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said the way the barricades had been put up and roads dug up at Delhi’s borders, ‘it seemed that Punjab’s borders were sitting across a hostile border, with Haryana trying to stop some enemy’. Everything was being done to prevent farmers from exercising their democratic rights, he said.

Mann added that the Red Fort violence seemed to have been pre-planned, considering that the high-security monument appeared to have been left unattended by security forces, with a large media contingent already there.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Prem Singh Chandumajra was of the opinion that an independent commission should be set up, under a retired judge, to expose the entire conspiracy behind the Red Fort violence on Republic Day, which could not simply be dismissed as the act of some miscreants.

The role of the police, who beat up farmers, should also be probed, he said, adding that if the Central government does not set up such a commission, then the Punjab government should do it.

He also suggested a symbolic all-party protest in Delhi, and waiver by the state government of all loans of families that have lost their kin in this agitation.

Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal of SAD echoed his party colleague’s sentiments to stress that the deadlock between the Centre and the farmers had to be broken. Another SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa also lamented the ‘systematic attempt to weaken the federal structure of the nation’, which remains the biggest threat even when the farm laws issue is resolved.

Noting that the BJP government at the Centre was pushing Punjab to the edge, Sukhpal Singh Khaira of Punjab Ekta Party wanted the state government to appoint an observer at the Delhi border, and called for an inquiry by Delhi government into the Republic Day violence.

Simranjit Singh Bains of Lok Insaaf Party stressed the need for ceasefire among all parties, pointing out that “when farmer unions can sink their difference and unite, why can’t we?” All party representatives should go and sit at Delhi’s border, without getting on to the stage, as a morale booster for the farmers, he added.

He was also in favour of meeting the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, while advocating some control on the media to stop them from ‘spreading hatred against Punjab and Punjabis’.

Jasvir Singh Garhi of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) extended his party’s unequivocal support to the Resolution placed before all the parties.

CPI’s Comrade Bant Singh underlined the historic significance of the farmers’ struggle and said all Punjabis should come together to support those agitating against the farm laws to send a strong message to the Centre.

Comrade Sukhwinder Singh of CPI (M) said the Centre was targeting all opposition parties, thus necessitating a collective pushback. “They want to create a Hindu Rashtra by trampling over all constitutional values,” he said, adding that the real motive of the farm laws was to destroy the agriculture sector under pressure from WTO.

Some of the speakers made a specific mention of BKU leader Rakesh Tikait’s role in the agitation, noting that his tears had lent strength to the stir, which had received a setback after the R-day events.

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