New Delhi: The violence that erupted during Tuesday’s tractor rally by farmers could result in hardening of the Centre’s stand on the three controversial farm laws, even though no decision has been taken yet on continuation or cancellation of talks with the farmers, top government sources told ThePrint.
“The government is unlikely to make fresh offers for talks or make any new offer,” a Union minister, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ThePrint.
Another senior BJP leader said the incident was “unprecedented” and “will change the course of the protest”.
But irrespective of what happened Tuesday, BJP will continue to reach out to farmers across the country and inform them about the three laws, especially the way the government has been accommodating the protesting farmers, the leader added.
A tractor rally by farmers Tuesday, against the three farm laws announced by the Modi government, turned violent after protesters deviated from the route approved by the Delhi Police. Thousands of farmers entered the national capital and reached ITO and the Red Fort in central Delhi, clashing with the police who resorted to lathi-charge and lobbed teargas shells.
Top government sources also said no decision has been taken yet on whether the proposal to suspend the laws for 18 months should be withdrawn.
In a climbdown of sorts from its earlier stand, the Centre had on 20 January proposed to suspend the three new farm laws for up to 18 months until the standoff is resolved. The farmer unions had, however, rejected the offer and said they won’t accept anything other than total repeal.
‘Incident will force us to rethink our stand’
“Our main focus right now is to ensure that law and order is maintained. Home Minister Amit Shah is closely monitoring the situation. It’s too early to take any policy decision related to the farm law. But today’s incident will force us to rethink our earlier stand,” the source quoted above added.
Shah held a high-level meeting Tuesday evening with home secretary Ajay Bhalla and Delhi police commissioner S.N. Srivastava to review the law and order situation in the national capital in the wake of the violence.
However, no formal meeting was held on the issue at the level of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who is closely involved in the government’s strategy to resolve the farmers’ agitation. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar also did not hold any meeting.
Sources also said the government’s future course of action will be decided by the PM in consultation with his senior ministers.
No repeal of laws
The government could rethink its strategy following the violence, but there is not going to be any repeal of the three farm laws, a senior Union minister, who is involved in backroom strategy to end the standoff with farmers, told ThePrint.
“We are clear that the three farm laws are not going to be repealed,” said the Union minister, who did not want to be named.
The violence at the tractor rally has almost ended the sanctity of peaceful farmers’ protest, the second Union minister told ThePrint.
“The farmers had given an undertaking that they will deploy volunteers and obey the police route and the march will be peaceful. But no volunteer was seen managing the unruly protesters. Today’s incident is an indication that the farmers’ protest is not in the hands of union leaders any more,” the minister said.
The minister also said that this is the reason that when the government proposed to suspend the three farm laws for 18 months, some 15 farm organisations were in favour of accepting the offer.
BJP spokesperson R.P. Singh told ThePrint: “Today, farmers’ unions have breached the government’s trust. We are saying from Day One that funding for the agitation is coming from outside. Unions said volunteers will manage the protest, no weapon will be there but all promises were broken.”
Singh said the government had been very conciliatory in its approach with the farmers. “The government made an offer to suspend law, the Supreme Court also suspended the implementation of law but some forces don’t want to end the agitation, which was established today.”
‘Conspiracy to discredit farmer movement’
Farmer Union leaders, meanwhile, said Tuesday’s violence was a deliberate conspiracy to discredit the farmers’ movement. “There was no violence since the protest started over two months now. Suddenly, why would we do something like this to discredit our own movement? It does not make any sense,” said Hannan Mollah, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha.
Mollah said the Sanyukta Kisan Morca will be holding a meeting Wednesday or Thursday to discuss and find out if any outside elements were behind Tuesday’s violence.
“But our agitation will continue,” he added.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.