New Delhi: Bhupinder Singh Mann, the 81-year-old leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s ‘Mann’ faction, stepped down from the Supreme Court-appointed committee on farm laws because he “knew” that farmers would not “appreciate my suggestions or hear me out”.
“I am thankful to Supreme Court for appointing me as one of the committee members, but I chose to step down because I knew that reconciliation with farmers would not have been possible, as they were firm on their demands,” Mann told ThePrint in an interview. “It would not have worked out.”
The four-member panel was formed by the Supreme Court on 12 January to find a resolution to the impasse between the Narendra Modi government and the farmers protesting against the three new farm laws. Other members are agricultural economists Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi and Professor Ashok Gulati, and Anil Ghanwat, president of Shetkari Sanghatana, a Maharashtra-based farmer organisation.
Mann quit the panel two days after it was formed amid reports that the four members are all supporters of the farm laws. Mann’s BKU has not been a participant in the farmers’ protest against the laws.
However, speaking to ThePrint, Mann, a former Rajya Sabha MP, said his selection to the panel put off members of the BKU (Mann), adding that they have since formed a separate faction called the BKU (Punjab). He also dismissed allegations that the committee was handpicked to serve the Modi government’s interest, noting that he has been speaking in the same voice as farmers on issues such as MSP, which the protesters want to be identified as a legal right.
“I myself wrote a letter to the PM (in September 2020) saying that MSP should be made a legal right. I don’t think the Centre would have recommended my name after my letter to PM,” he said.
“The current form of the law creates a situation where farmers have still not got freedom,” he added. “In the letter to the PM, I wrote that ‘Azaad desh ke ghulam hai kisan (farmers are slaves of an independent nation)’,” he said.
Also Read: All 4 members of SC-appointed panel on farmers’ protest support new farm laws
‘BKU (Mann) my family’
While the BKU has many factions now, Mann’s BKU was the first in Punjab and has spawned almost all the other factions in the state.
He has been an active farm activist since 1966, and participated in many agitations. These include the 1984 agitation in Chandigarh, where thousands of farmers lay siege to the Punjab Raj Bhavan and refused to move until their demands were met.
The farmers were demanding that support prices for wheat and paddy match the actual production costs.
In 1991, Mann was nominated to the Rajya Sabha as an Independent member and served in Parliament till 1996. He is known to be close to Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
Mann said his appointment to the SC panel had led to his removal from the BKU (Mann). The faction removed Mann and formed the BKU (Punjab), he added.
The BKU (Punjab), Mann said, also ended ties with the All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC, different from the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, which started the protest against the laws), an umbrella body of farmers’ organisations that is also headed by Mann.
Speaking about the BKU (Mann), the farmer leader said it is his family and he hopes to settle the differences with its members soon.
“My friends are upset with me, but I will give them some time,” he said. “Everything will come back to normal as before very soon.”
‘Lack of trust between farmers and government’
Talking about the impasse between the farmers and the Modi government, Mann said “apprehensions and lack of trust for the government” are the key reasons behind the failure of talks.
“Despite eleven rounds of talks, no conclusion has been reached. This is because the farmers do not trust the government,” he added. “The government has not been able to fulfill its responsibility of communicating to the farmers and address this issue of lack of trust.”
This report has been updated to correct a statement attributed to Mann. An earlier version of the report said he quit the panel because he felt the other members won’t listen to him. Mann said this statement was aimed at farmers — he felt the farmers won’t listen to him, not other members of the SC-appointed panel.
Also Read: ‘Will stand with farmers & Punjab’ — farmer leader Bhupinder Mann quits SC farm laws panel
Mann quit because he was being threatened by Khalistani elements to quit.
*I chose to step down as I knew that none of the other three members would listen to me or take my suggestions”
That does not automatically make his point of view the right one.
In fact, if had counter points, he should’ve convinced the other members and not run away from the proverbial battlefield.
it is a pity that a man with such an attitude was appointed to the committee in the first place.
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