Agitating farmers refuse to budge, call for ‘Bharat Bandh’ on 8 December


NEW DELHI: As farmers continue their protests on to the ninth day at Delhi’s borders, talks with the Centre seem to have hit an impasse. The government has again called the farmer leaders for a new round of talks on 5 December. Despite a softening stance by the Centre, the farmers have stood fast on their demands and called for a Bharat Bandh on 8 December. On Friday, at the Singhu border between Delhi and Haryana, farmer unions made it clear in a press conference that they are in no mood to budge and disclosed their plans to raise the intensity of their protest. “Yesterday, we told the government that the farm laws should be withdrawn. On December 5, effigies of PM Modi will be burnt across the country. We have given a call for Bharat Bandh on December 8,” said Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU-Lakhowal) general secretary H.S. Lakhowal. “We need to take this protest forward. The government has to take back the farm laws,” added Hannan Mollah, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha at the press conference. Earlier in the day, 40 farmer leaders met at the Delhi-Haryana border to discuss follow-up actions after Thursday›s meeting with the government failed to end the deadlock over the contentious new farm laws.  Meanwhile, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said on Friday that the farmers are hoping that the government will meet their demands during the fifth round of talks scheduled on December 5. “The government wants to make amendments to the three laws, but we want the laws to be completely repealed. If the government does not agree to our demands, we will continue to protest. We are looking to find out what happens in Saturday›s meeting,» Tikait told news agency PTI.

While the farmers remain accessible at Singhu, Ghazipur and other borders, the ones at the Tikri border have mostly been cut off due to police barricading. Shouting slogans and bringing in leaders to speak on the issue, farmers at Tikri repeated their call for staying firm at the protest site and keeping it clean and providing food, water and tea to the crowd.

“The government will have to accept our demands, the farm laws were made for farmers. If we are not happy with it, they should roll it back. Let them make MSP a law and let us decide what laws we want,” said Harjinder Buggi, a farmer camping at Tikri border.

Another farmer at the location told The Daily Guardian, “This might be a 9-day-long protest for many but we have been at this for the past 2-3 months. Just because it was happening in Punjab, people didn’t heed it. Now that we’ve shut down the national capital, they have noticed us. The farmers will die if we let these laws lead our lives. At least by fighting here, we will have a noble death. We’re ready to sit here for six months, a year or however long it takes. We have ration and more is on the way. Various associations like the truck and lorry industry are also joining in.”

However, many farmers indicated that they do not want a delay in the protest or for it to go the ‘Shaheen Bagh’ way.

Political parties have also extended their support to the agitation. TMC leader and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O›Brien met farmers gathered at the Singhu border. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also spoke to the farmers over the phone and extended her support. Congress’s frontal organization, Indian Youth Congress, is also organizing langars at the protest sites, while another frontal organization of the party, the Indian Overseas Congress (Germany), has decided to donate Rs 1 crore to the movement. IOC general secretary, Virender Vashist, also said that such an initiative should not be seen as a political decision but as a social initiative, adding that some part of this money should be spent as medical aid for the agitating farmers.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain also visited the Singhu border in the afternoon. “The farmers are being deliberately harassed by the people in power. If they are not in agreement with the bill, it should be re-appealed. A bill which is meant for the farmers should be made after taking their consensus. Politicizing the matter will not help,” said Jain during his visit.