New Delhi: Farmer unions have rejected the Narendra Modi government’s proposed amendments to the new agricultural laws, reiterating that nothing short of a repeal is acceptable to them.
The government had sent a draft proposal to the farmers protesting at Delhi’s borders Wednesday, after 13 farmer leaders met Union Home Minister Amit Shah Tuesday night. While the meeting remained inconclusive, the Centre had agreed to send a draft proposal to the farmers.
At around noon, leaders of the 31 farmers unions coordinating the protests went into a huddle to discuss the proposal, but they seemed to be in no mood to relent — they said their demand remained the total repeal of the three farm laws, and a new law on minimum support price.
Sure enough, at around 5pm, Boota Singh, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakonda), said: “The government has sent us amendments to the three laws. The same amendments were discussed in the previous meeting in Delhi. Our leaders have decided that until and unless the three laws are repealed, we will not accept any amendments.”
In a statement on Twitter, Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav, who is part of the umbrella All India Kisan Sangharsh coordination committee, the umbrella body of the 31 farmer organisations that is coordinating the protests, also said farmers have unanimously rejected the proposal.
— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) December 9, 2020
At a press conference after the meeting, farmer unions said they had reiterated their non-negotiable stance at the meeting with Shah yesterday. “We said the three laws have to be repealed and we need a new law on MSP. But Shah said consider our proposal, so we went through their written proposal today. But the proposal doesn’t say how they plan to address our concerns,” said Shiv Kumar Sharma ‘Kakkaji’, president of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh.
“The proposal only goes about in circles about amendments. Amendments are not acceptable to us and we reject the government’s proposal,” he said, adding that the farmers will continue their agitation across the country and “will block all roads to Delhi and intensify our protest in the coming days”.
Farmers ThePrint spoke to at Singhu Border echoed their leaders in demanding the total repeal of the Modi government’s three farm laws.
“Why is the government imposing these laws on us? Paracetamol tablets are only given to those who have fever. We didn’t ask for these laws, yet they are being imposed on us,” said Ashok Kumar, a farmer from Patiala who makes daily trips back home and gets homemade laddoos for others.
“We are here to help our farmers in any way that we can. Our leaders have given the flaws in these laws to the government in writing. The government has admitted that there are flaws. Why then are they not repealing the laws?” he claimed.
Dayanand, a farmer from Haryana’s Kaithal, added: “We want the laws repealed and MSP according to Swaminathan Commission recommendations. Until this is done, we will continue our protest.”
A group of five farmers holding posters saying “we are farmers not terrorists” insisted that the government has to find a solution.
“Why are they trying to show us as terrorists? They are questioning why only Punjab farmers are protesting. Even during the independence war, it was the Punjabis who went to jail in huge numbers and even got hanged. The British had also wondered why were only Punjabis coming forward to fight,” said Gurpreet Singh, one of the group, who hails from Amritsar.
He added: “We have been here for almost a week now. We have come in a batch of 15. We will stay for two weeks, then the next batch will come and stay for another two weeks. The government has to find a solution. If they are assuring us that MSP will continue, why aren’t they putting it in writing? We will not leave till they repeal the laws completely.”
‘Centre trying to drive a wedge’
There is also speculation about farmer bodies being divided over accepting the government’s amendments, but farmers at the Singhu Border alleged the Centre is trying to drive a wedge between them.
“If they purposely call one leader separately and don’t call others, it creates grievances in the minds of those who haven’t been called. But farmers are united here and the government will not succeed,” said Jasbeer Singh, also from Amritsar.
Others claimed the government is using the tactic of ‘divide and rule’.
“They called 13 leaders yesterday; earlier they called another group separately. They are purposely trying to create divisions in our minds, but won’t succeed,” said Zorawar Singh, a farmer from Mansa in Punjab.
Farmers insisted they stand united, and any leader who doesn’t reflect the spirit of the people will be sidelined. “The government doesn’t realise that the leaders here reflect the spirit of the people. Any leader that deviates from the spirit of the people will be sidelined. So all decisions will be taken together and we will stay united,” Jasbeer added.
(This report has been updated with the farmers’ rejection of the Modi government’s proposal)
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