New Delhi: “We will either die or win. We will return home only when you withdraw the (three) laws,” farmer leaders told the government in clear terms on Friday afternoon (January 8) during eighth round of talks held at Vigyan Bhawan for a resolution to the over one-month-long deadlock on the issue of the three new agricultural laws enacted by the Centre in September last year.
The meeting once again ended inconclusively with the only consensus that next round will be held on January 15.
Both sides as earlier stuck to their respective positions, with agitating farmers pressing for their demand for rollback of the legislations and the Centre asserting it is ready for amendments or any proposal other than their repeal.
The government represented by Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash ruled out any possibility of complete withdrawal of the Acts, reiterating that the laws have been welcomed by a large section of farmers in other states across the country. They also asked the unions to think about the interests of the entire country.
Meanwhile, Tomar appealed for more discussion on the laws, adding that it is important to take a decision in the interest of the nation. “Talks are the way for a solution in a democracy,” Tomar told representatives of the 40 farmer unions.
However, farmers outrightly rejected the proposal and said that they are not a political party, their only demand being withdrawal of the legislations.
Our ‘ghar wapsi (return home)’ is possible only when you do ‘law wapsi (repeal the laws)’, they replied to the government.
Also read: ‘Will Stay Right Here Until Centre Repeals Farm Laws’
“There are several judgments of the Supreme Court that declare farming a state subject. The Centre should not ideally interfere in agricultural matters. You (the government) do not seem to be interested in resolving the issue. Please give us a clear answer on the repeal of the laws as talks have been taking place for so many days. Please don’t waste everyone’s time,” one of the farmer leaders told the minister.
“There no other end to this deadlock except roll back of the laws,” said another in the meeting, which took place in a tense atmosphere.
Take Matter to Supreme Court: Govt
The government also suggested to take the matter to the Supreme Court and let it decide. “We will follow whatever direction the SC gives in the matter,” said the agriculture minister.
But, the farmers’ unions rejected the proposal to take the matter to the court. “This is a political matter and it will be resolved politically. We will keep fighting, we will not go to any court. We are not accepting any proposal that involves the courts,” All India Kisan Sabha General Secretary Hannan Mollah told NewsClick.
He further said, “Heated exchanges took place in the meeting. We said we don’t want anything other than repeal of laws. We will continue our fight till the laws are repealed. They asked us to postpone our Republic Day parade in the national capital. We told them our scheduled parade on January 26 (Republic Day) will go on as planned.”
Responding to the failure of the meeting once more, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said, “We will not relent before the laws are repealed. We will come for discussion again on January 15. The government wanted to talk about amendments, but we don’t wish to have clause wise discussions. We simply want a repeal of the new farm laws.”
On being asked how long this tareekh pe tareekh (date after dates) will continue, a farmer leader belonging to Dr Darshan Pal’s union said, “We will sit and decide our future course of action. We will have to further intensify the protest. It is a fascist government, which does not believe in discussions and dissent. But we will make it accept the demands.”
Also read: Farmers’ Talks with Govt Over Farm Laws Fail Once Again, Next Round on Jan 8
Talking to the media after the meeting, Agriculture Minister Tomar said, “Discussion on the laws was taken up but no decision could be made. The government urged farmers’ unions to give an option other than repealing. But no option could be presented for consideration. The meeting was concluded, and it was decided that the next meeting will be held on January 15. There are many issues that both sides have highlighted. We will take them all up in the next meeting.”
Prominent farmer leader and BKU President Balbir Singh Rajewal said the matter does not only relate to the constitutional validity of the laws, but it is a question of farmers’ survival. “The three laws is like a death warrant for farmers. It will only impact their income but will snatch their livelihood in the long run. The laws are aimed at ensuring the extinction of peasants. Therefore, we are adamant on our stand. The protest will continue till the government agrees to repeal the law,” he added.
Shiv Kumar ‘Kakka’, a farmer leader from Madhya Pradesh, said that the failure of talks even after the eighth round “shows that the government, not farmers, is stubborn”. He questioned, “What message you (the government) want to give out by bringing the laws, which are not acceptable to farmers. We have told the government in clear terms that nothing lesser than withdrawal of the laws are acceptable to us. We have already lost 70 farmers during the ongoing protest, how many more lives the government wants before accepting our demands?”
He also accused the government of being “insensitive” and “undemocratic” in its approach. “The honourable minister was talking about the democracy, we, too, are searching for that,” he added.
Abhimanyu Kohar of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh said that the government looking for amendments indicates the fact that the laws are faulty, which the farmers are saying from day one. “We had shown the government a small trailer by organising a tractor march on the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressway. The show was a glimpse of our strength. We will show the ruling dispensation the complete show on January 26. We are saying from the day one that the Centre has no right to bring any law on agriculture, which is a state subject. When you did not have any right to form laws, why did you bring such unconstitutional Acts?” he asked.
Also read: Ahead of Talks with Govt, Farmers Take out Tractor March Against Farm Law
Asked about the ruling party’s claim that around 90 lakh farmers have supported the three laws, he said, “The government itself has accepted in a reply in response to queries filed under Right to Information (RTI) Act that it has no data with regard to the number of farmers consulted before bringing the laws. Then why is the government misguiding the nation by making false claims?”
He went on to add, “The government has once again claimed that 1 lakh farmers have supported the legislations. Upon investigation of the claim, it turned out that 116 FPOs (Farmer Producer Organisations), which do not even exist, have extended their support to the government’s move. Another time, they claimed that 3 lakh farmers from Punjab have supported the government. But, the man who has submitted the support letter works with a pesticide company.”
Farmers across the country, he said, are united and they will return home only after the laws are rolled back.
Also read: With No Faith in Ongoing Talks, Farmers Prepare to Step Up Pressure on Centre