“The farmers of Gujarat had to go out of the state to protest and met me here in Rajasthan; it says a lot about the state of farmers in Gujarat,” Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said at a public gathering in Abu Road, Rajasthan, near the state's border with Gujarat.
Tikait added that the Gujarat government had been “projecting that the farmers of the state had no problems and were not supporting our ongoing protest against the Farm Laws. That is a lie. Groups of farmers from Gujarat have visited us at the Tikri Border to show their support for the movement. They told us how they had to avoid being detained and were put under house arrest in their own state,” added Tikait.
Tikait, who arrived in Gujarat on Sunday for a two-day tour as part of which he will travel from north Gujarat to south Gujarat, hit out at the ‘Gujarat model’, saying: “It is perhaps for the first time anybody has heard of farmer leaders being pulled away in the middle of a press conference and being detained. In Gujarat farmers do not even have the right to hold a press conference. That is the Gujarat model.”
Notably, after a press conference in Ahmedabad called by farmer leaders from Gujarat was stopped midway with the leaders detained, organisers had been apprehensive that Tikait would be stopped at the state's border with neighbouring Rajasthan.
“The Chief Minister of Gujarat, on multiple occasions, has said that farmers of Gujarat have no issues. But every time we attempt to raise our voice it is suppressed. On December 6 last year about 5,000 farmers were ready to leave for Delhi to participate in the protest. That could not happen as farmers’ leaders from across the state were detained and put under house arrest. Some leaders were under house arrest for 37 days,” Palbhai Ambaliya, farmer leader and one of the organisers, told Newsclick.
Ambaliya added that they then decided to hold a farmers’ meet on January 22 this year in Rajkot with about 20,000 farmers expected to participate from Gujarat and other states. “Leaders of the BKU were to join us from Delhi. But the Gujarat government denied us permission on the evening of January 21. We sought permission again on January 27, following which the Rajkot Police Commissioner held a press conference to announce that we had been denied permission. In March when we attempted to carry out a tractor march, the Gujarat government punctured the tyres of our tractors. Does democracy exist in Gujarat?” he posited.
The farmer leader said that these experiences made them “wary that Rakesh Tikait won’t be allowed to enter the state. Nonetheless we organised the programme with the Kisan Sangharsh Manch of Rajasthan. Why did the farmers of Gujarat have to come to Rajasthan to hold a farmers’ meet? It cannot be further from the truth to say that farmers here have no problems,” added Ambaliya.
Rakesh Tikait, who has been conducting farmers’ meetings in Rajasthan, addressed a public gathering at Abu Road with 2,000 farmers from both states in attendance. Thereafter, amid heavy police presence, Tikait entered Gujarat to an overwhelming reception. After visiting a temple in Ambaji, Banaskantha, Tikait addressed a massive gathering in Palanpur alongside former Gujarat CM Shankarsinh Vaghela.
Addressing farmers in Palanpur, the BKU leader said, “Dar nikaalna padega (You have to overcome fear). The farmers of Gujarat have to decide how they will join the protests. Youth will have to come out in huge numbers. If there are no protests our land will be taken away. The lands of farmers across the country will be acquired the same way Reliance was given land from 60 villages in Gujarat. Farmers of Gujarat want to win through court cases but let me tell you, your lands can be saved only from protesting on the ground. So, do not depend on courts.”
Speaking exclusively to Newsclick, the farmer leader said, “We are aware how Gujarat government takes away land from farmers to give to big companies using the amended Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. We will find a way to combine our way of protesting with how the farmers of Gujarat have been protesting against land grab in courts till now.”