New Delhi: Farmers’ organisations on Saturday announced that peasants across the country would observe May 26 as ‘Black Day’ to mark the completion of six months of protests against the three farm laws at the entry gates of the national capital.
At a virtual press conference here, the farmers’ leaders said the farming community along with common citizens would hoist black flags on their homes, tractors and vehicles and burn the effigy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in villages.
"On May 26, we will complete six months of this protest and it also happens to mark seven years since PM Modi formed the government. We will observe it as black day," Balbir Singh Rajewal, secretariat member, Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) – an umbrella of over 40 farmer organisations – said.
He said the Central government thinks that its apathy and sheer ignorance would weaken the movement in the absence of talks.
“Let me tell you clearly, it’s living in a fool’s paradise if it thinks farmers would return without fulfilment of their demands. We are more than willing to talk but it should not be considered our compulsion. Although we had intuition that farmers would be made villains, we never thought the Centre would stoop so low where we would not only blamed for lack of oxygen in hospitals but now for rising COVID cases, too, while the government itself was promoting Kumbh Mela in Haridwar and campaigning in Assembly elections,” he said.
Rajewal was referring to the statement made by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar alleging that the protesters were carrying the infection into villages.
Farmer leader Jangvir Singh Chouhan from Punjab said SKM also discussed the plight of sugarcane farmers in Punjab who have been denied payments by mills since the last two years. ”The Punjab government led by Captain Amarinder Singh did not increase the price of cane procurement in the past five years. It remains stagnant at Rs 315 per quintal since he assumed office. We demand that it should be increased to Rs 350 because the input costs have almost doubled in past five years.” He said.
Detailing the rising inputs costs, Chouhan said “a 50kg bag of DAP fertiliser has seen an increase of Rs 400 in the past five years. Diesel and petrol prices are increasing every day after deregulation. If the government does not consider out demands, we would be compelled to open a permanent front in Punjab, too. The Congress government should also answer why it and private mills are sitting on our payments worth Rs 350 crore and Rs 100 crore, respectively.”
In a press statement, SKM also announced plans to launch a "Mission UP and Uttarakhand" in its ‘Demands of Repeal 3 Black Laws, Enact legal guarantee for MSP and Punish the BJP’. This shall include rallying all farmer organisations across the country and shall be observed throughout these states.
Krishna Prasad, joint secretary, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) told NewsClick that the programme should be seen in the wider framework of policies. “What we are planning is to build a movement to do away with policies drafted in favour of corporates. This needs political alliance. We must understand that our movement is not limited to the repealing of three farm laws and legal guarantee of minimum support price. It’s just a step,” Prasad added.
On Saturday, the farmer leaders also paid tributes to legendary revolutionary Sukhdev Thapar, who was executed along with Bhagat Singh and Rajguru, for killing British officer John Saunders, farmer leader late Mahendra Singh Tikait and Abhay Sandhu, nephew of Bhagat Singh, who succumbed to COVID-19.
The leaders said Tikait taught the entire agrarian society to fight for their rights fearlessly. Through several movements, the most notable being at Boat Club in Delhi, the anti-farmer decisions of ruling dispensations were pushed back under the leadership of Chaudhary Tikait, who continues to be an inspiration for the current movement, they said.
“We also mourn the passing away of Shaheed Bhagat Singh's nephew and social leader Abhay Sandhu on Friday. He was a constant part of the protests at Singhu Border and other dharna sites, and openly supported farmers. He was also honoured by the SKM on the Pagdi Sambhal Diwas. Sandhu had announced that if the demands of the farmers were not met, he would go on fast unto death against the government,” farmer leaders said.
A large number of farmers have been protesting on three Delhi borders – Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur -- since November 26, 2020 after facing water cannons, cement barricades, nails on roads and police barriers as part of their "Delhi Chalo" march against the three farm laws -- Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 – and demanding a new law made to guarantee minimum support price for crops.