Let government tell farmers why can't it repeal farm laws, we will not let it bow its head: Tikait

GHAZIABAD: The Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) had not allowed political parties in the movement against new central farm laws but took political support “only after democracy was mocked” at protest sites, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said Sunday.

Tikait made the remark as hundreds of farmers reached a key protest site on the Delhi-Meerut highway in Ghazipur on the national capital’s border with Uttar Pradesh where they danced to upbeat tunes, creating a festive atmosphere as more supporters continued to pour in.

Security measures were strengthened with multi-layer barricading that included iron and concrete structures, while barbed wires also came up on both sides of the highway stretch that has become the BKU’s camping site since November 28 last year in a major farmers’ stir over three new farm laws of the Centre.

Farmers reached the Ghazipur border from western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand as a turban-clad Rakesh Tikait led the charge for the BKU, the appeal of which coupled with a clarion call from a January 29 “mahapanchayat” of farmers in Muzaffarnagar has re-energised the stir, which was fast losing its sheen and momentum after the Republic Day violence in Delhi.

In response to a question, Tikait said, “the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) had not allowed political parties to enter the movement because our movement is apolitical. Support from political parties was taken only after democracy was mocked over the protests. But still, politicians are kept away from the stage of farmers’ protest.”

On Sunday, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal reached Ghazipur.

Besides him, regional leaders of Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Samajwadi Party also met with BKU office-bearers, extending their support in the fight for their demand for rollback of the new laws.

“Modi saab nu kisaanan di mann di gal sunni chahidi hai (Prime Minister Narendra Modi should listen to the heart’s talk of the farmers),” said Badal, whose party broke ties from the BJP-led NDA over the contentious laws last year.

Tikait said the farmer unions are hoping for a resolution of the deadlock through dialogue and if the prime minister wants to talk to the farmers, they will ensure dignity of the PM’s post but also protect their self-interest.

On if and when will the farmers decide on talking to the government, Tikait said, “I am one of the 40 members of the farmers’ delegation but the decision on talks would be taken by the SKM committee.”

According to the Ghaziabad administration, senior officials and police officers are regularly monitoring the situation at the Ghazipur border.

Vehicles proceeding towards and coming from the protest site are being checked while drones were deployed for aerial monitoring at the site, which had thousands of protestors on Sunday, according to officials.

“The situation is under control and is being regularly monitored,” an officer of the district administration said.

The groups of farmers camping at the site braving the cold nights were seen dancing to folk tunes and songs eulogising the nation and farmers as some young protesters carried music systems to Ghazipur on their tractor-trollies.

Thousands of farmers 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 the 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.