NEW DELHI: The farmers’ unions announced on Monday at all protest locations a one-day hunger strike to press for the lifting of the centerThe new agriculture laws, even as the union’s interior minister Amit Shah, said Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar will likely have a day or two with the protesting groups to discuss their demands.
Farmers in the Punjab and Haryana and those protesting on Delhi’s borders observed ‘Shradhanjali Diwas’ on Sunday to pay homage to their brothers “who died in the ongoing agitation”.
Farmers’ bodies have claimed that over 30 farmers involved in the uproar have died from a variety of reasons, including heart attacks and road accidents. The peasants performed ‘ardaas’ (prayer) and in some places they also led protest marches against the center.
Protesters, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, continued in cold spell conditions in several border areas of the state capital for the fourth week, despite repeated attempts by the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convince them of the benefits of the reforms.
On Sunday morning, Prime Minister Modi surprisingly visited Gurudwara Rakab Ganj, one of the most popular Sikh shrines, and paid tribute to Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru, for his greatest sacrifice.
Modi also interacted with followers during the visit, which was against the backdrop of his attempts to reach Punjab farmers.
Talks between the farmers and the center were interrupted after five rounds on December 9th when the farmers unions rejected the proposal for a center to amend the laws and a written commitment to continue the minimum support price (MSP).
Union Interior Minister Amit Shah, who was in West Bengal, said talks will resume soon.
“I don’t know exactly when the time will come, but Tomar will likely meet with the farmers’ representatives tomorrow or the day after to discuss their demands,” Shah said at a press conference.
The agitated peasant unions threatened to increase their excitement.
“Farmers will start a one-day hunger strike on Monday at all places where the protest against the new agricultural laws is going. It will be started by a team of 11 at the protest locations,” said Yogendra Yadav, head of Swaraj India, at a press conference at Singhu Border.
He also urged people demonstrating against the laws across the country to watch a day-long hunger strike at their respective protest locations.
Farmer Jagjeet Singh Dalewala said farmers would not allow tolls on highways in Haryana from December 25-27.
“From December 25th to 27th, all toll booths in Haryana will not be allowed to collect tolls. We will stop them.”
“On December 27th, our prime minister will say his ‘man ki baat’ and we would like to urge people to beat ‘thalis’ during his address,” said the chairman of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), referring to the prime minister’s monthly radio address .
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said farmers who protest the new agricultural laws will obey them Kisan Diwas on December 23rd and “we ask people not to cook lunch for a day”.
Amid the standstill, the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), one of the largest peasant organizations in Punjab, which contributed to the excitement, said it had been asked by a central authority to submit its registration details that will enable it to obtain foreign funds , claiming this was the case to be targeted by the center.
The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) requires companies to register that receive foreign funds.
“A department at the center sent an email that we received through our bank’s branch in Punjab. In the email it was stated that we should provide registration details for these donations from abroad, otherwise they will be sent back, ”said the general secretary of the outfit, Sukhdev Singh.
Singh questioned the timing of the move and said, “They use all tactics as their only purpose is to defeat the agitation.”
When asked how much foreign money they recently received, Singh said, “We have yet to calculate the exact amount.”
“The IT department first raided ‘Arhtiyas’ (commission agents) because they supported the farmers’ agitation. Now that our outfit is big, the center is aimed at us, ”claims JKinder Ugrahan, President of the BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan).
“You are asking for details on NRI funds. The NRIs from Punjab help us with donations from their hard-earned money. You support our agitation, what’s the problem with that? People also support us at home, ”explained the head of the BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan).
Several BJP leaders, including union ministers, have claimed the agitation was kidnapped by leftists, Maoists and separatists, which the unions have denied.
At an event in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath attacked the opposition parties, claiming they had misled farmers by falsely claiming that the MSP system would end after the new laws were implemented.
Union minister VK Singh said Sunday the agitation was “more political” and underscored the NDA government’s intention to ensure the welfare of the Ryots.
Speaking to reporters prior to interacting with farmers in Tamil Nadu, the minister claimed that “the actual farmers are very happy with what has been done in the past six months”.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding about farmers’ issues. Farmers across India are mostly happy, actual farmers are very happy with what has been done,” he said.
The opposition Samajwadi Party said it would hold a special action on December 25 when its leaders go to villages in Uttar Pradesh to raise awareness of the “anti-peasant policies” of the BJP-led governments.
The head of the Uttar Pradesh Congress, Ajay Kumar Lallu, said his party would continue its fight for the farmers until the laws are withdrawn.
“The agitation of the peasants is a fallout from BJP’s policies of lies and deceit Agricultural laws are withdrawn, “said Lallu.
Meanwhile, traffic on the Jaipur-Delhi highway remained partially affected by the protests for the eighth consecutive year.
The lane has been closed to traffic and vehicles heading for Delhi will be diverted to other routes, a police officer said.
Thousands of farmers protesting the centre’s new agricultural laws on the borders of Delhi kept calling for the legislation to be repealed.
The sit-ins continued as the city had its coldest morning this season, with mercury dropping to 3.4 degrees Celsius on Sunday.
The agitation by farmers that has entered week four has also led to traffic diversions at various border points, causing inconvenience to commuters.
Farmers protest the Farmers Act (Authorization and Protection) on Price Hedge and Agricultural Services, the Farmers’ Production of Trade and Industry Act (Promotion and Facilitation) and the Essential Goods Act (Amendment).
The three agricultural laws passed in September have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agricultural sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed concern that the new laws would pave the way for the removal of the safety cushion of the minimum support price and abolish the mandi system and hand them over to large companies.
The Center has repeatedly stated that the MSP and Mandi system will continue.