Amid the speculation of resumption of talks between the government and the protesting farmers, the unions on Wednesday categorically said that they haven’t received any formal invitation from the Centre.
At a press conference at the Singhu Border, the representatives of 26 Haryana-based farmers unions said that they are yet to receive any formal invitation from the Manohar Lal Khattar government for talks over the constitution of a committee to discuss modalities of minimum support price (MSP), cancellation of criminal cases against farmers and a slew of other demands.
Harmeet Singh Nathowan, president, Pagdi Sambhal Jatta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, said that the unions want a written and formal invitation from the government. “If the government is really interested in any serious dialogue, it should invite us formally rather than approaching individuals through its officers.”
Nathowan said that about “48,000 cases were lodged against the farmers and they are rightly worried that once the agitation ends, the police and the administration will come after them”. As far as the panel on MSP is concerned, “we reiterate that it should come up with a concrete structure regarding the members of the committee, its mandate and a timeline for a legislation”, he added.
The unions said that they would also bring up the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Haryana Amendment) Act, 2021, and the Haryana Recovery of Damages to Property During Disturbance to Public Order Act, 2021. The farmers allege that the first Act deprives them of their right to compensation and resettlement whereas the second holds protesters responsible for damages. Even the colonial government did not introduce such repressive laws to muzzle the dissidents, they said.
Ruldu Singh Mansa, leader, Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), said that it is up to the government to comment on the letter the union had sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi listing their demands. “We had written a letter to the prime minister about our pending demands. We never received a reply. Now, we are getting reports of different statements being issued by different spokesmen. Our demands remain the same, and we will only return if the Samyukta Kisan Morcha is satisfied regarding the Centre’ response.”
Responding to the issue of the Union government denying compensation to the farmers who died during the agitation, Mansa said, “The government spent so much money on snooping on us to find our names, organisations and background. Cannot they find out how many farmers died during the agitation?”
Hannan Mollah, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha, alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has been incessantly peddling lies to hide their humiliating defeat at the hands of the farmers. “Narendra Modi has been graceless in defeat and insincere in the apology tendered; he has no remorse for the death of more than 700 farmers and immense hardships we had to undergo,” he said.
Referring to Union agriculture minister Narendra Tomar’s claim in Parliament that there is no record of the farmers who died during the agitation and hence compensation cannot be paid to their families, Mollah said, “It clearly shows the arrogance and inhuman attitude of the BJP government.”
The veteran farmer leader said that talks with the SKM cannot be substituted with the bureaucracy resorting to individual discussions with leaders regarding the committee on MSP and withdrawal of the cases. “The BJP government is seeking to divide the farmers by engaging in informal talks with a few organisations without a formal discussion with the SKM. We warn that such attempts will not succeed in breaking the unity of the farmers,” Mollah said.
Modi and the BJP government “should refrain from doing politics and discuss the issue of providing legal guarantee for remunerative MSP, withdrawal of amendments to the Electricity Act and the cases and compensation for the families of the farmers killed during the struggle” Mollah said.
“Withdrawal of the cases and compensation for the families is non-negotiable and the government should make it clear whether it is agreeable to a law on MSP guarantee. Another committee on MSP will not be acceptable to farmers,” he added.