Taking the lead to intensify the farmers’ movement against the three agri laws, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha -- a collective of farmers’ unions—on Wednesday announced a four-hour nationwide 'rail roko' (railway blockade) on February 18.
In a statement, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the protest, also announced that toll collection will not be allowed in Rajasthan from February 12.
Announcing a slew of protest actions while addressing mediapersons at the Singhu border, Darshan Pal, president, Krantikari Kisan Union, said farmers in Haryana have been appealed to gherao MLAs of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally Jan Nayak Janta Party to support the ongoing movement or resign from the their respective Assembly seats. The farmers had earlier stopped the rally of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Kaimla, Kurukshetra.
“The programme was called with active support from different khaps who assured us of their contribution in terms of supply of food items and other essential services. For Rajasthan, we have appealed to free toll plazas from private collection agencies,” he said.
The farmer leader decried “deliberate attempts” to pit jawans (soldiers) against kisans (farmers) during the whole course of movement.
“The unions appeal to citizens to pay homage to martyred soldiers and farmers on the second anniversary of Pulwama attack on February 14. Later, the farmers will organise meetings to remember iconic farmers’ leader Sir Chhotu Ram and his legacy on February 16. Most importantly, we decided to stop rail services across the country from 12 noon to 4 PM in the evening to express our anguish. We are noticing a remarkable trend in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan where peasantry is organising itself through massive mahapanchayats,” he said.
To a question if there was consensus on initiating dialogue with the government, Pal said: “The farmers expected that their issues will be discussed in the Budget session and an amicable solution could be found. However, the government remains adamant on the pro-corporate laws. Even the budget allocation has disappointed us.”
Earlier in the day, Rakesh Tikait, a prominent farmer leader from Western Uttar Pradesh, addressed the people gathered at Singhu border. He said that farmers have waged a struggle to prevent their bread from becoming a market commodity where the level of hunger will decide its prices.
“Let us be very clear that corporate takeover of farms is not the sole agenda. The agri-based companies will decide the types of seeds we will sow. They are snatching our freedom and the issue will not only affect farmers, it will affect poor workers who are already battling malnutrition. The laws will decimate the prospects of running small businesses,” he said.
Tikait said: “People should understand that it is such a grave concern that farmers’ unions put aside their differences to fight the government. It is still creating hostile situations to provoke the agitating youth. When our farmers who came specifically for 26th January tractor march returned, it was shown that the movement is breaking apart. Let me reiterate, neither the manch (platform) nor panch (leaders) will split. Delhi saw a rally of four lakh tractors. We will mobilise 40 lakh tractors to show our support if this government does not relent,” said the UP farmer leader.
Commenting on the vindictive action on media groups covering the farmers’ movement extensively, he said: “Kalam aur camera par pahra hai (the assault is on pen and camera). They are even reluctant to release the names of arrested farmers whose families are wandering in search of their loved ones. They have lodged our youth in prison whereas the real culprits are still absconding. The incident could not have been taken place with connivance of the government agencies”, he added.