New Delhi: The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) faction—one of the key organisations leading the farmers’ protest—saw discord on Sunday over the opening of the highway at the Chilla border. The highway from Noida to Delhi was the only one left open as the farmers’ protest escalated and the Delhi-Jaipur border was blocked to stop farmers coming into Delhi from Rajasthan.

The decision to open the highway—blocked for 14 days—was taken by Thakur Bhanu Pratap Singh, the president of the organisation, after he met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday.

But the UP unit chief of the BKU (Bhanu) Yogesh Pratap, who was holding a sit-in protest on the road for the last 12 days, disagreed. He not only opposed opening the way, but said he would sit there on a fast unto death. The group’s national general secretary Chimhendra Singh Chauroli and national spokesperson Satish Chaudhary resigned to protest the decision to open the road.

The BKU (Bhanu) faction has been at the forefront of the farmers’ agitation. The group had earlier challenged the Centre’s three farm laws in the Supreme Court and was among the delegation that recently met Union minister Rajnath Singh to discuss the issue.

Amid farmers’ protest against the farm laws, a group of farmers from Uttarakhand met Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Sunday and supported the farm laws. They said that the three farm laws enacted by the Centre in September will bring revolutionary changes in the agricultural sector.

“The farmers from Uttarakhand met today, understood the agricultural reform bills and gave their suggestions. I thank all of them on behalf of the government. The doors of the government are always open for the farmers,” Tomar told media after the meeting.

Farmer leaders from Uttarakhand told the Agriculture Minister that the three laws enacted by the government are in the interest of the farmers. They said that amendments can be made but there is no need to repeal them. They have appealed to the government not to come under pressure on this issue.

Earlier, a delegation of farmers and farmer union representatives from Haryana, including those connected to Farmers Producer Organisation, met Tomar on Saturday and expressed their support for the three farm laws with modifications proposed by the Central government.

“We, the farmers of Haryana who are connected to Farmers Producer Organisation (FPO) and progressive farmers are in favour of continuing three farm laws—Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce(Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmer (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020—with proposed modifications,” the letter said.

The letter said quite categorically that they were in favour of farmers’ unions call for continuing of MSP and mandi system. “But, we request you to continue these laws with proposed modifications. We request you to heed our concerns,” it said. The farmers later said they were happy with the farm laws.

Meanwhile, thousands of farmers on Sunday intensified their protests against three new farm laws. “Hundreds of farmers will launch a tractor trolley march to New Delhi to voice our grievances against the new laws,” said Kamal Preet Singh Pannu, a leader of Sanyukta Kisan Andolan (United Farmers’ Protest), one of 30 groups against the laws. “Government wants to discredit and crush our movement, but we will continue to protest peacefully,” Pannu said.

The protesting farmers on Sunday also declared a wider day-long movement, urging its leaders to undertake a hunger strike from wherever they are protesting.

The announcement came after a meeting of farmers at Singhu border gave their nod to the decision taken by farmer representatives of 32 different unions on Saturday for holding the hunger strike on 14 December (Monday) from 8 am to 5 pm.

Earlier, it was decided that the farmer leaders will hold the hunger strike only on Singhu border at Delhi-Chandigarh route.

Addressing a press briefing here at Singhu, Bhartiya Kisan Union’s (BKU) Haryana President Gurnam Singh Chathuni said, “All the leaders would be carrying out hunger strikes wherever they are leading the protest”.

Bharatiya Kisan Union’s (BKU) national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said: “The hunger strike would be carried out tomorrow till 5 pm but the farmers will have to take care that no disturbing element comes in our movement”.

Tikait, who represents the farmers from western Uttar Pradesh, advised that all the younger ones shall learn how agitations are carried out.

The farmers continued their 18th day protest on Sunday seeking government to fulfill their first and major demand to roll back the three laws—The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The agitation is on as five rounds of talks between the government and the farmers so far remained inconclusive. Farmers are demanding the repeal of three farm laws calling “black laws” and “anti-farmer” but the government is not ready for a rollback. As per the government, it is ready to carry out amendments to the laws but these cannot be repealed, as “they are for the benefit of farmers”.