New Delhi: Headlines like ‘Modi Govt Faces SC heat’ may have comforted many but farmer unions, which have been protesting since November 26 against the enactment of three agricultural laws, on Tuesday said they were not going to engage with any committee, even if formed by the Supreme Court.
Addressing a press conference organised by the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions,
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) President Balbir Singh Rajewal said: “The government wants to shift its pressure by forming a committee via Supreme Court. But we want let it happen. And therefore, we will not talk to any such committee. The laws have been brought by the government, not by the court. Therefore, we will continue talking with the government panel only till the legislations are repealed. The government cannot escape from its accountability.”
The farmer groups accused the government of getting a four-member mediation panel appointed by the top court with an aim to release “pressure” on it and shift the onus to the committee, which will comprise agricultural economists Ashok Gulati and Pramod Joshi, Bhupinder Singh Mann of the Bharatiya Kisan Union and Anil Ghanwat of Shetkari Sanghatana.
Rajewal also raised questions on the reliability of the SC-proposed four-member mediation team, which has been tasked to submit a report to the apex court within two months of its formation.
“All members of the committee are pro-government who have so far defended the three laws. Though we have already in- principle rejected talks with any committee, yet even for argument sake, we cannot engage with those who have justified the laws,” he continued.
“We never demanded from SC to form committee; the government is behind all these. It got the petitions filed. Since we were impleaded, we were represented by our lawyers in the court,” he added.
Jagmohan Singh, a member of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Co-ordination Committee and an office bearer of BKU, reiterated the same.
“The panel is not at all reliable. They have continuously written articles in leading national dailies such as Indian Express and The Hindu in support of the three laws. It does not matter who else are there in the committee, we have maintained our principled stand that we won’t talk to any committee. Had they been against the laws, we would not have accepted any such mediation,” he said.
According to him, formation of such a committee is aimed at putting the farmers’ agitation and concerns in the cold storage.
“But we will not let it happen. We have come here for an indefinite period, we will return victorious. The protest will go on peacefully. Today, we have stopped four entry points of Delhi, tomorrow it can be 10. We will further intensify the protest. It will not be restricted to Delhi borders only, we will do it in other bigger cities of the country as well,” he concluded.
Raminder Singh Patiala, state committee member of the Kirti Kisan Union, clarified there was no call for a farmers’ parade at Rajpath or Red Fort.
“There are rumours that we will organise a parade at Red Fort or Rajpath on Republic Day. We want to make it clear that we don’t have any such plan. No doubt, there will be historic celebrations of the Republic Day, but it won’t be held there. We are not going to end our agitation on January 26. It will continue till the government repeals the laws,” he added.
Jagjit Singh Dallewal, president of the BKU (Sidhupur), alleged the government’s intention and policies toward bringing the laws reflect in the committee formed by the SC. “It seems the government impressed upon the court to pick people who can take forward the farm laws,” he said, adding that the government wants to shift onus to the Supreme Court by forming the committee via top court.
“Tomorrow, it will escape from its accountability giving reference of the committee’s report, which at max will recommend for some minor amendments. Anything less than repeal of the three laws is not acceptable to us,” he concluded.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the implementation of the three farm laws until further notice, and set up a committee comprising experts to hear the parties and understand the ground situation. When informed that the farmer unions were not willing to appear before the committee, the bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said those “genuinely” interested in finding a solution would do so.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha in its press statement welcomed temporary suspension of the implementation of the laws but said it is not a solution.
“The farmer unions have not been asking for this solution, given the fact that the implementation can be reinstated at any. The government must repeal the laws, and it must understand that farmers and people of India are opposed to the laws,” it said.
Adding that the farmer unions will not participate in any negotiation with the committee, the statement said one of their apprehensions about such a process got validated in the very constitution of the committee.
“It is clear that the court is being misguided by various forces even in its constitution of a committee. These are people who are known for their support to the three Acts and have actively advocated for the same. It is not out of place to remind that the farmer unions have rejected a Committee proposal from the government too. Their dialogue is basically with an elected government about its policy directions and concomitant laws,” the unions said in the statement.
They claimed that they have already explained in detail to the government that the laws will lead to “corporate control over agricultural production, processing and markets”. “It will lead to high cost of inputs, higher debts on peasants, lower the crop prices, increase farmer losses, decrease government procurement, end PDS (public distribution system), raise food costs, higher farmer and agricultural worker suicides, hunger deaths and eviction from land due to debts. The government has hidden these hard facts from people and the court,” they said.
Meanwhile, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) too has rejected to talk to the committee. “It is clear that the court is being misguided by various forces even in its constitution of a committee. These are people who are known for their support to the 3 Acts and have actively advocated for the same,” it said in a statement issued earlier on Tuesday.
The union representatives said a peaceful ‘Kisan Parade’ on Republic Day will be held in the national capital and all over the country in large numbers.
Peasants are staging indefinite sit-in strikes at more than 20 places in Bihar. Farmers have held meetings at more than 80 places in Chhattisgarh, and they are preparing to join the protest at Delhi borders. In Gulbarga of Karnataka, people have staged a bike rally to protest against three farm laws. Hundreds of farmers from Kerala are coming to Delhi borders.
Big demonstrations were also held in Vijayawada and Hyderabad. In Rajasthan and Haryana, farmers are joining the agitation under the Jagrukta Pakhwada and various demonstrations are being held in many districts.
Farmers are all set to celebrate Lohri festival at all Delhi borders by burning copies of three Central farm laws.
Meanwhile, the SC also sought response from the Centre on whether a banned organisation had infiltrated the farmers’ protests. The direction came after P S Narasimha, who represented a petitioner supporting the farm laws, claimed members of ‘Sikhs for Justice’ were helping the protests.
Claiming that he had information of Khalistanis in the protests, the Attorney General said he would file an affidavit with Intelligence Bureau records by Wednesday.
Further, the top court issued notice on the Delhi Police petition seeking to stop the tractor rally planned by farmers on Republic Day. The Centre and farmer unions have engaged in eight rounds of talks so far, but failed to break the impasse. Farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at Delhi’s borders since November seeking repeal of the laws.
The laws in contention are: Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance & Farm Services Act 2020, Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Act & Amendment to Essential Commodities Act.