Will honour PM's dignity, but also protect farmers' self-respect: Naresh Tikait

BAGHPAT: The ripples of farmers’ protest against the new agri laws on Delhi’s borders spread further in western Uttar Pradesh with thousands of people converging for a ‘mahapanchayat’ on Sunday in Baghpat, the third such congregation in the region in as many days which resolved to lend support to the ongoing peasants’ stir.

The ‘sarv khap mahapanchayat’  took place at the Tehsil ground here with farmers pouring in from nearby districts as well in tractor-trollies, many of which are decked up with music systems, the tricolour and farmer unions’ flags.

This is the third ‘mahapanchayat’ of farmers in the region after a massive congregation in Muzaffarnagar on Friday and in Mathura on Saturday, both resolving to support the ongoing BKU-led protest at the Ghazipur border against the three new farm laws.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rajendra Chaudhary told the crowd the movement has to be continued with full strength.

The ‘mahapanchayat’ is also deliberating on the January 26 police action against farmers protesting in Baghpat district against the new central farm laws, a local Baraut resident, who attended the event, told PTI.

Chaudhary Surendra Singh of the Desh Khap and Chaudhary Subhash Singh of the Chaubisi Khap are among key regional farmer leaders attending Sunday’s ‘sarv khap mahapanchayat’, where supporters of Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Congress and Aam Aadmi Party were also present.

A khap is a traditional social council representing a community or a region in parts of north India with a Chaudhary as its titular head.

Before announcing the culmination of the mahapanchayat in the evening, Desh Khap chief Chaudhary Surendra Singh told the crowd, “Understand the situation and start moving to Delhi’s borders and ensure full support to protests at Ghazipur and Singhu.”

Brajpal Chaudhary, another Desh Khap leader, said the fight was now for the prestige of farmers.

“The police and administration are trying to suppress the movement by force, but it won’t end until the new laws are repealed,” he said.

Chaudhary Haripal Singh expressed happiness over the large turnout for the farmers’ congregation as did several other local leaders who spoke at the mahapanchayat.

“Beshak Dilli mein police walon ne kisano ko dande maare hon, par hum aaj bhi bolte hain ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ (No doubt policemen hit farmers with batons in Delhi, but we are nevertheless saying: hail soldiers, hail farmers),” a local leader told the crowd from the stage.

“Whatever happens, we will respond with non-violence and not violence. Our leaders at protest sites and our panch (leaders of the panchayat) will make decisions and we all will follow them,” he added.

Additional District Magistrate Amit Kumar and Additional Superintendent of Police Manish Mishra also reached the venue and expressed regret over the forceful eviction of protestors in Baghpat on January 27.

The protest was being held against the new central farm laws at the Delhi-Yamunotri National Highway here, prompting khap leaders to convene Sunday’s mahapanchayat.

The two-month-long protest against the farm laws appeared to be losing steam after widespread violence during a tractor parade by farmers on the Republic Day, but an emotional appeal by BKU leader Rakesh Tikait gave it a fresh lease of life with thousands of farmers gathering at the Gazipur protest site and the ‘mahapanchayats’ from western UP extending support to the stir.

The farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and parts of UP, have been protesting at Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporations.

However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.