New Delhi: A day after Union Home Minister Amit Shah appealed to farmers from Punjab and Haryana to end their protest at the doorstep to the national capital and move to north Delhi’s Burari, farmer unions have rejected the offer, saying they will not accept conditional talks with the Centre.
“We will not accept the Centre’s conditions. We will either stay here at the Delhi-Haryana border or go to Ramlila Maidan, but we will not go to Burari,” said Joginder Ugrahan, one of the leaders of the protest and chief of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan).
Thus, the stalemate between the central government and the farmers on the three new farm laws passed in September continues, though Shah said in Hyderabad Sunday that he had never called the protests “politically motivated”, nor was he doing so now.
In his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat Sunday morning, PM Narendra Modi hailed the new laws, saying his government is “committed to the welfare of the hardworking Indian farmer”.
“New dimensions are being added to farming and related aspects in India. The recent agri-reforms have also opened up doors of new opportunities for farmers,” he said.
Conditional talks unacceptable
Punjab and Haryana farmers have been protesting against the Centre’s three new farm laws since October. Thousands of farmers reached Delhi early Friday as a part of their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, which started on 26 November and was meant to culminate in a protest in central Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan or Jantar Mantar.
The farmers clashed with the police on their way to Delhi when the Haryana Police used water cannons and tear gas shells. On Friday, the Delhi Police too used water cannons and tear gas shells on the protesters at Delhi’s Singhu Border, before allowing them to move to Nirankari Ground in north Delhi’s Burari. Farmers, however, have refused to accept the Centre’s offer and have been camping at the border since Friday.
The 30 farmer organisations coordinating the protests began talking about a long-term protest site Saturday, but the talks remained inconclusive, and farmers continued to camp at the Singhu border. While talks are still underway Sunday, a decision is being taken on whether the protest will continue at the border or not.
Shah had said Saturday that the central government is ready for talks with farmer leaders.
“I appeal to the protesting farmers that the government of India is ready to hold talks. The agriculture minister has invited them on 3 December for discussion. The government is ready to deliberate on every problem and demand of the farmers,” the home minister had told news agency ANI.
In a letter to the farmers late Saturday, the home ministry said that while farmer leaders have requested for talks before 3 December, the government will only hold talks after the farmers move to Burari.
“As soon as farmers shift to the Burari ground, the very next day the government of India will be ready to hold talks with farmer union leaders and a high level committee of the agriculture ministry at Vigyan Bhawan,” said the letter, which has been accessed by ThePrint.
However, farmer leaders said conditional talks are not acceptable. “We reject this letter as we will not accept conditional talks with the Centre, which include moving to Burari,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakonda).
Satyavan, working group member, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), added: “We want the Delhi Police to remove the barricades and allow us to enter Delhi. But we will not move to Burari. Till a decision is taken, we will continue to protest here at the border.”
Meanwhile, opposition politicians continue to take on the Narendra Modi government over the action on the protesting farmers.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a press conference: “Neither the home minister nor the agriculture minister have the time for India’s farmers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hailed the three farm laws on his Mann Ki Baat address today. When the PM himself is advocating these laws, how will talks take place and what will talks yield?”
The Aam Aadmi Party which rules Delhi, meanwhile, hit out at Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh for urging farmers to accept the Centre’s offer to move to Burari. The Congress government in Punjab has been opposing the new laws.
AAP’s Raghav Chadha said in a press conference Sunday: “Punjab CM Amarinder Singh is dancing to the tunes of PM Modi and Amit Shah. Modi and Shah want to trap farmers in a box.”
He added: “The nexus between the Punjab CM and BJP government is quite clear as soon after Amit Shah made the statement Friday asking the farmers to accept his proposal, Amarinder Singh too urged the farmers to give in to the demands of the Modi government and accept their proposal.”