New Delhi: Thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana joined the protest sites at the entry gates of the national capital after the harvesting season has ended to press for their demands of withdrawing the three farm laws, legal guarantee of minimum support price and abolition of Electricity Amendment Act 2020.
The farmers’ unions have called upon protesting farmers to join the sit-in on Delhi’s borders on May 10 and May 12. Although, a significant section of peasants is expected to reach by May 15, farmer leaders maintain that the mobilisation of farmers in large numbers is being done to dispel rumours and disappointment that some farmers were facing regarding the future of the movement.
Baljeet Singh Grewal, a farmer leader from All India Kisan Sabha told NewsClick that the mobilisation was intended to break the monotony that some farmers were feeling after talks were suspended by the Centre four months ago. The disappointment is also spurred by consistent rumour mongering by supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies, he added
When asked about the possibility of any big action amid the COVID surge, Grewal said: “Frankly speaking, we have fought the propaganda machinery of the saffron party very patiently and consistently but taking any action when the pandemic is raging will not be advisable. We already know how a certain section of the media blamed a minority sect for the spread of the virus. We do not wish to give any opportunity where farmers are blamed for the virus spread. Their (BJP) propaganda machinery, their channels are looking out for a single mistake by us so that their failures can be covered up.”
Kulwant Singh Sandhu from Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, who led a mammoth caravan of farmers from Malwa and Doaba regions of Punjab, said the Samyukta Kisan Morcha -- a collective of farmers’ unions-- had given the call on the anniversary of 1857 Sepoy Mutiny (May 10) to farmers to get back to the borders.
”The people gave BJP a befitting reply in the Assembly elections in five states and panchayat elections of Uttar Pradesh. For us, it is a matter of people’s safety in the pandemic. We can call lakhs of people on one call but neither is this an opportune moment nor is this our intention. It is for the government to decide its priorities!” he added.
Darshan Pal, President, Krantikari Kisan Union, said the farmers are firm on their demands and will not go anywhere until these are met.
”It is for the government and the ruling party to decide how they wish to treat the issue. If they wish to prolong the issue, they will see the same fate they witnessed in Bengal. We will go to villages and appeal to people to punish them through votes and socially boycott the workers of the party,” he added.
‘We Stand by Sexually Assaulted Women Worker’
The farmer union leaders, in a separate press conference on Monday, said they received a complaint from one woman protester about the alleged sexual assault from members of a political party at the Tikri protest site. The worker, who later succumbed to COVID -19, had come from West Bengal to participate in the protest. Acting upon the complaint from her colleague, the collective registered an FIR against the accused in Bahadurgarh, Haryana.
In a statement, it said,” SKM makes is abundantly clear that it stands with the struggle for justice for our deceased woman colleague. SKM has already taken strict action against the accused in this case and we are committed to taking this fight for justice to its logical conclusion... When this came to the notice of the SKM, we decided to take strictest possible action. Four days ago, the Tikri committee of SKM had already removed the tents and banners etc of the so called “Kisan Social Army”. The accused were barred from participating in the movement and public appeal issued for their social boycott. The SKM has made it clear that the Kisan Social Army was never the authorized social media voice of the SKM and none of its handles have anything to do with the movement.”
It added that ”from day one, the SKM has assured the family of the deceased colleague that it will extend them every possible support in any legal recourse that they prefer. Yesterday, on 8th May 2021, her father has lodged a formal complaint with the Police Station, Bahadurgarh. The SKM will extend full cooperation to the police in bringing out the truth of this matter. No one shall be spared... We wish to assure all women farmers and womens’ organisations that there shall be no compromise with women’s freedom, their autonomy and their agency. The SKM shall follow Zero Tolerance for any incident of sexual harassment, assault or violence against women.”