It will be the second instance in the last eight months of farmers’ agitation that demonstration against the three farm laws will be officially held in the National Capital.
The last was on Republic Day, January 26, when a tractor rally was held inside its borders. That aftermath now lay heavy in the talks held through four days between union leaders and the Delhi Police.
The tractor parade had led to anarchy on Delhi’s roads. Protesters broke security barriers. There were clashes with the police. Some stormed the Red Fort and hoisted a religious flag on the ramparts. Several were arrested later.
One death was also reported that day. Neither side wants any chaos this time.
“Our protest will be peaceful. A rumour is being spread that farmers are going to lay a siege. It’s all false. This kind of protest is held at Parliament Street (at Jantar Mantar). Nobody (protesting farmers) will go to Parliament," said All India Kisan Sabha leader Hannan Mollah.
He asserted that their protests have been, and will always be, peaceful and organised.
This time, 200 handpicked representatives will enact mock proceedings of Parliament at Jantar Mantar as long as Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are in session. The venue is a spot marked for protestors, adjacent to the historical observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh in the early 18th Century.
The Monsoon Session of Parliament convened on Monday, July 19, and is scheduled to conclude on August 13.
“When our movement was at its peak, the government resorted to petty means to thwart the struggle on January 26. It appeared we were about to fail. But those sitting here – from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab – returned, and revived the movement,” said farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal in an address on Wednesday, July 21.
“The movement is again at a peak,” he told a gathering of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) – a platform of several farmer unions organising the demonstrations at Delhi’s borders. Rajewal briefed them about the demonstrations scheduled over the next few weeks at Jantar Mantar.
According to the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) president, 200 farmers will assemble every day by 8 am at a pre-determined point. Each of them will be sporting an identification badge. They will board buses to take them to Jantar Mantar, more than 40 km away. Each vehicle will have one senior leader to coordinate and guide the occupants.
The mock session will begin at 11 am – the time Parliament officially convenes on working days.
“Please do not clamour for a spot. Leaders will nominate 200 farmers every day. We’ll accommodate you all through the session. We must abide by our discipline and follow proper conduct,” added Rajewal.
Delhi Police had been asking the unions to reduce the number of protestors. But the farmer leaders held their ground. They even agreed to share Aadhaar Card details of participants. The protestors can also be identified from the tag they will wear. They said that such steps will keep unscrupulous elements away.
Thousands of farmers have been agitating at Delhi borders against the three farm laws. They claim it will pave the way to the end of Minimum Support Price (MSP) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
Negotiations with government representatives have not been held since the January 26 fiasco.
The issue has also been raised in the Monsoon Session by several Members of Parliament.
On Tuesday, July 20, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party president Asaduddin Owaisi sought to know in Lok Sabha about the steps taken by the government “to invite farmers for talks to address their grievances”.
Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar replied to this particular point that the “Government engaged itself actively and constantly with the agitating farmers’ unions and 11 rounds of negotiations were held between the Government and agitating farmers’ unions to resolve the issues.”
He added in the written statement that the Centre is open to further discussions “to resolve the issue”.
There was a specific query from Manish Tewari and Behanan Benny of the Congress, asking if the Centre was ready to repeal the laws – the main demand of protestors.
“In all the rounds of discussions with the Farmers’ Unions, Government had stressed that instead of insisting on the demand for the repeal of the said Acts the Farmer Unions should discuss their concerns on the clause of farm Acts so that their concerns can be resolved,” answered Tomar in a written statement.
Though SKM intends to keep the stir apolitical, several opposition leaders have lent their support to the stir. On their part, union leaders are seeking a mandate against the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies.
Farmer leaders have officially asserted that they intend to strengthen the movement in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, apart from Punjab and Haryana. Assembly elections are due in these states (except Haryana) next year.
Meetings are scheduled to be held in several districts of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh in August. A political decision is expected when a 'Mahapanchayat' is held in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, on September 5.
Meanwhile, ahead of the planned demonstrations in Delhi today, Security at Jantar Mantar in central Delhi has been tightened. Adequate security arrangements have been made and police and paramilitary personnel deployed, officials said.
Jantar Mantar is a few metres away from the Parliament House where the Monsoon session is underway.
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