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SKM to Launch Nationwide Movement on MSP on March 21

Ravi Kaushal |
In its meeting today, SKM also announced week-long protests across the country from April 11-17 to mobilise farmers on the issue of threats being received by eye-witnesses in the Lakhimpur Kheri killing case and MSP.
farmers SKM

New Delhi: Meeting after the recently concluded Assembly elections in five states, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) on Monday announced it would launch a nationwide agitation to build a movement on minimum support price (MSP) after Centre failed to act on its promises announced on December 9 last year.

After repeal of the three contentious farm laws following a year-long historic agitation by farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare had announced that it would form a committee with clear terms of reference to determine the MSP, write to state governments to withdraw cases registered against farmers during the protests and compensate the kin of farmers who died at the borders of national capital during the agitation.

Ashok Dhawale, President, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), a member of the over 40 farmer organisations’ umbrella - SKM,  told NewsClick that the unions attending the meeting after a two-month gap reached a consensus that the morcha should write to Centre on its “betrayal” of millions of farmers.

“The morcha has given a call to observe all- India protest day on March 21 when all farm unions will hold dharnas at tehsil and district headquarters. Similarly, week- long protests will be held across the country from April 11-17 to mobilise farmers on the issue of threats being received by eye-witnesses in Lakhimpur Kheri killing case and MSP. Our aim was to give SKM a formal structure and the decisions for rules and regulations and funds too have been made,” Dhawale added.

A farmer from Haryana told NewsClick on the sidelines of the meet at Gandhi Peace Foundation that most of the cases had been withdrawn. However, there is no clarity on the cases being tried in different district courts. Punjab-based unions maintained that the cases have been withdrawn. However, compensation to all victims still needs to be taken up.

Darshan Pal, President, Krantikari Kisan Union, said the morcha reviewed written assurances given by the Central government to the SKM on December 9, and found that even after three months, the government had not acted on its key assurances.

“There is no trace of the assurance of forming a committee on MSP. Except Haryana, the police cases registered against the farmers during the agitation in other states have not been withdrawn. Delhi Police has spoken of partial withdrawal of some cases but there is no concrete information about that as well. Nothing has happened about the cases registered during Rail Rokos across the country,” he said.

The farmer leader said that in Monday’s meeting, after reviewing the legal process going on in the Lakhimpur Kheri case, concerns were expressed that the police administration and prosecutors were trying to protect the accused and implicate innocent farmers.

“It is a matter of surprise that in such a serious case, the son of the Union Minister got bail so soon while the farmers implicated in the same case are still in jail. SKM expresses serious concern at the news that a key witness in the case has been attacked after Monu Mishra's ( Minister’s on and key accused) release. The Morcha decided that there would be no relaxation in the legal battle in this matter, and full legal help would be given by the Morcha to the families of the farmers” Pal added.

A Special Investigation Team (SIT) is probing the Lakhimpur Kheri violence that claimed eight lives, including four farmers and a journalist who were allegedly mowed down by an SUV driven by the Minister’s son and other local Bharatiya Janata Party members.

After reviewing the provisions of the first information report or FIR, the SIT had urged the chief judicial magistrate to replace lesser charges in the case, like causing death by negligence, with attempt to murder, saying that it was a "pre-planned conspiracy causing death".

The SIT also urged the CJM to replace Indian Penal Code or IPC Sections 279 (rash driving/riding), 338 (causing grievous injuries by negligence) and 304A (causing death by a rash and negligent act) with IPC section 307 (attempt to murder) among others in the case related to the October 3 violence, in which four farmers were among those killed.

It retained IPC Sections 302 (murder), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).

The SIT had also recommended promulgation of IPC 326 (voluntarily causing injuries by dangerous weapons), 34 (acts by several persons with common intentions) and sections 3/25/30 of the Arms Act in warrants of the 13 accused.
The accused have been arrested in connection with FIR number 219 which pertains to the death of the four farmers and a local journalist in Tikunia.

However, any decision to revoke the suspension of Punjab- based unions who fought elections could not be reached.

The morcha also extended its support for all India general strike called by the joint platform of central trade unions on March 28-29 and asked its constituents to participate with full strength. The strike is mainly against the four labour codes and privatisation of central public sector undertakings.

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