As the farmers’ protest against the three agricultural laws entered its 65th day, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, addressing an ever-swelling crowd of farmers at Ghazipur, responded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Saturday remark that the government’s proposal of suspending the laws for 18 months is still open to farmers. He also demanded that arrested farmers be released.
He said, “There won’t be any agreement under pressure. We will hold discussions on the issue, The Prime Minister is ours also, we are thankful for his initiative, we will respect it. We want our people to be released.”
During an all-party meeting held on Saturday, the PM repeated what agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar had told the farmers. “He said – we’ve not reached to consensus but we’re giving you (farmers) the offer and you may go and deliberate. He told farmers that he was just a phone call away,” ANI sources quoted Modi as saying.
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“What is the compulsion of the government that it is adamant on not repealing the new farm laws? The government can tell its reasons to farmers and we (farmers) are the kind of people who believe in the panchayat system. We will never let the government bow its head in shame in front of the world. We have an ideological fight with the government, something which can neither be fought with sticks and guns nor suppressed by them. The farmers will return home only when the new laws are repealed,” he said.
Condemning the violence between locals and farmers at the border areas, he said, “The farmers won’t mind if the police even baton-charged them but if goons of political parties dare touch them, neither the farmers nor their tractors would leave the site. The tears that I shed the other day were not mine but of all farmers.”
On a conciliatory note, Tikait’s brother and fellow BKU leader Naresh Tikait said, “Protesting farmers will honour the dignity of prime minister, but are also committed to protecting their self-respect.” He said the government should “Release our men and prepare an environment conducive for talks”. “A respectful solution should be reached. We will never agree to anything under pressure,” he told PTI. “We will honour and respect the dignity of prime minister. Farmers don’t want that the government or Parliament bows down to them,” the younger Tikait said.
Responding to the Republic Day violence, he said, “The violence on January 26 was part of a conspiracy. The Tricolor is over and above everything. We will never let anyone disrespect it. It will not be tolerated.”
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister in his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ address condemned the violence that took place during the farmers’ Republic Day tractor rally. “The country was saddened by the insult to the tricolor on the 26th of January in Delhi,” he said, alluding to the hoisting of a religious flag at Red Fort.
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Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh called an all-party meeting on Tuesday to show support for the protesting farmers. “This is not the time to stand on ego but to come together to save our state and our people,” the chief minister told the parties.
“Our farmers are dying out there at the Delhi borders for more than two months now. They are being beaten up by the police and assaulted by goons. They are being harassed by being deprived of basic amenities,” the CM said.
Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal, whose party pulled out of ruling NDA alliance over the farm laws, visited Ghazipur to lend his support to the agitation, IANS reported. Prior to his arrival, Rakesh Tikait announced that no politicians will be given the microphone to speak on the main stage, claiming that he has received a notice for allowing political leaders to take up the stage and address protesters in the last few days. Badal met Tikait for ten minutes near the protest site, and assured support to the protesting farmers.
Meanwhile, leader of the Aam Aadmi Party Raghav Chadha wrote to Singh demanding deployment of Punjab Police to safeguard the demonstrators.
I write to @capt_amarinder Saab demanding deployment of Punjab Police to safeguard safety and security of peacefully protesting farmers, in the light of recent attacks on them engineered and executed by goons from BJP. pic.twitter.com/G3SpGNRmuY
— Raghav Chadha (@raghav_chadha) January 31, 2021
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal reiterated his support to the farmers protesting the Centre’s new laws and said he will offer any help possible to them. Responding to a tweet by farmer leader Naresh Tikait, Kejriwal said, “I will help in every way through my party and my government.”
नरेश जी। आप लोग इतना संघर्ष कर रहे हैं। मैं, मेरी पार्टी और मेरी सरकार की तरफ़ से हर तरह की मदद करूँगा। https://t.co/X2orvO9CAi
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 31, 2021
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar attacked Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief and his predecessor Sharad Pawar saying that it was dismaying to see a man of his experience to “employ a mix of ignorance & misinformation on the agriculture reforms”.
Rajya Sabha MP of the CPIM and Kisan Sabha leader KK Ragesh, who was part of the protest at Delhi borders, tested positive for Covid-19. He submitted a notice seeking to table private member bills to to repeal the three laws.
The Delhi Police Welfare Mahasangh staged a protest against the attack on police personal during the tractor rally violence. The protesters demanded strict action against those who attacked police personnel during the tractor rally organised by farmers.
(With agency inputs)