New Delhi: At the end of their three-hour long chakka jam Saturday, protesting farmer unions said they will launch efforts to organise one such event every week to keep their agitation alive.
The unions, protesting the Modi government’s three farm laws, also said that while they are open to dialogue, talks can only be held in a conducive environment.
Saturday’s blockade was conducted on national and state highways for three hours between 12 noon and 3 pm. While the protest remained peaceful, nearly 50 people were detained in Delhi for staging protests in support of the farmers.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of the farmer unions protesting the three farm laws, had Friday said that the road blockade will be conducted across India except Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The blockade was conducted even as thousands of farmers continued to camp at Delhi’s borders for over two months.
‘Keeping the protest alive’
Farmer unions said that while Saturday’s chakka jam was “successful”, the protest needs to be kept alive going forward.
“The chakka jam was very successful across India. At least 100 villages took part in the blockade in every state,” said Hannan Mollah, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha. “While the protest at Delhi’s borders will continue, in order to keep the protest alive efforts are being made to organise one such event every week. Otherwise the government might think that the protest is over and we don’t want that.”
Farmer leaders also said that in order to keep the momentum going, efforts will be made to involve as many states as possible. “The protest at Delhi’s border will continue but that will not be enough. Just as we saw nationwide participation in today’s chakka jam, in future also we have to ensure the participation of other states going forward,” said Kulwant Singh Sandhu, general secretary of the Jamhuri Kisan Sabha.
Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson, Rakesh Tikait, who has been coordinating the protests at the Ghazipur Border connecting Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, issued an ultimatum to the government at the end of the chakka jam. “We have given time to the government until 2 October to repeal the laws. After this, we will do further planning,” he told ANI.
Other farmer leaders, however, told ThePrint that no such date has been fixed. “He (Tikait) may have mentioned the date but there’s no such commitment as yet,” said Onkar Singh, general secretary, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal). “If the government repeals the laws by 2 October then we will go back home. But if the laws aren’t repealed then we will continue our protest. No such date has been fixed,”
‘Talks only in conducive atmosphere’
While 11 rounds of discussion have already been held between the protesting farmers and the Modi government, no solution has been reached. Farmers have insisted on a total repeal of the three laws while the government has offered only suspension of the laws and amendments to them.
Farmer leaders said that while they are open to dialogue, talks can only take place if the government makes the first move.
“The government is saying in Parliament that they are ready for talks, the Prime Minister is saying that the government is only a phone call away. But let that phone call come,” Sandhu said. “We cannot be the ones to approach the government for talks; it has to come from them.”
Farmers also said that talks can only be held if a conducive environment is created by the government. “They are arresting our leaders, calling us anti-nationals. How can we hold talks with them in such a scenario?” asked Mollah.
“If the government creates a conducive environment, only then will we go for talks,” he added. “But we have always maintained that this issue is between the government and the farmers and can only be resolved via dialogue.”