Tuesday, Jun 06, 2023

Farmers' Agitation Suspended; Samyukta Kisan Morcha To Hold Meeting On Jan 15

Farmers' Agitation Suspended; Samyukta Kisan Morcha To Hold Meeting On Jan 15

Farmers will start vacating Delhi border points from Dec 11, this may take some time, says farmer leader Rakesh Tikait.

Farmers during their ongoing agitation against the Center's new farm laws, at Delhi-Noida border near Ghazipur, in New Delhi.(File photo) PTI

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha on Thursday decided to suspend the over a year-long farmers' movement against three contentious farm laws.

SKM, an umbrella body of 40 farm unions, announced that farmers will go back home on December 11 from the protest sites on Delhi's borders.

Farmer leaders said that they will again meet on January 15 to see if the government has fulfilled their demands.

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The announcement came after the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is spearheading the movement, received a central government signed letter where it agreed to consider their pending demands, including withdrawal of cases against farmers and form a committee on minimum support price (MSP).

On Wednesday, the SKM had said that it has reached a consensus on a revised draft proposal of the Centre on its pending demands.

“This is not the end as the movement is just suspended. We have decided to meet again on January 15,” farmer leader and SKM core committee member Balbir Singh Rajewal said in a press conference.

Farmer leader and SKM member Gurnam Singh Chaduni said, “A review meeting will be convened on January 15 to see if the government met all the demands. If they do not, we can take a call on resuming the protest.”

Farmer leaders said that farmers will take out victory marches on December 11 to their respective places.

"Farmers will start vacating Delhi border points from December 11, and this may take some time," farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said.

Farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, started protesting at Delhi border points on November 26 last year against the three farm laws. The laws have been repealed, but they are demanding legal guarantee on MSP for their crops and withdrawal of cases against farmers, among others.

 A look at how the farm protestors managed to make the centre bow down

In September 2020, the BJP government passed three farm laws -

.Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020

.Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020

.Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020

Anticipating mass protests, Shiromani Akali Dal, BJP's Punjab ally broke the alliance and, belonging to the party, the Food and Agriculture Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the union ministry.

These farm laws were passed in the Parliament despite strong opposition, both within the houses and on the streets. Ruckus was created as opposition members rushed to the speaker's chair and constantly raised slogans. The house was adjourned following that. TMC MP Derek O'Brien alleged afterward that he was manhandled and that the laws were passed through a voice vote, despite a sizeable number of opposition members saying no.

Protests against the farm laws spread to all the parts of India and the farmers of Haryana and Punjab became the centre of farmers protests. They started marching towards Delhi terming their march as 'Delhi Challo' (Dilli Chalo) but the Haryana Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse them. Punjab CM Capt. Amarinder Singh and Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar spoke in the media against each other as the farmers were stuck at Haryana border.

As more and more farmers started gathering at Haryana border, topped with the criticism that Haryana government was receiving for stopping a democratic protest, they lifted the barricades and allowed the farmers to march towards Delhi.

The farmers then started an indefinite protest at the Tikri border of North Delhi. Soon, the protest spread to other borders of Delhi as well and protest sites started coming up at Ghazipur border, Delhi-Haryana borders, the highways connecting Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to Delhi as well. Traffic on these routes was heavily affected. The situation was getting so out of hand that the police had to install concrete barriers at the borders of Delhi.

Farm leaders also called for Bharat Bandh on 8th December, 2020.

The Supreme Court which was seeing a bunch of petitions filed before it for quashing these farm laws started contemplating setting up an "impartial and independent" panel of agriculture experts and farmer unions to resolve the impasse.

The top court said it was of the view that the farmers’ right to protest should not infringe the fundamental rights of others to move freely and in getting essential food and other supplies as right to protest cannot mean blockade of the entire city. Therefore, it suggested the Centre to put a hold on the farm laws.

Several rounds of talks between the government and farm leaders took place in December 2020 but no common ground was found. The farmers were adamant about getting the farm laws repealed while the government didn't budge.

Farm Laws Stayed

Finally, on 12th January 2021, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the farm laws and formed a committee for resolving conflict between the government and the farmers. Farmer protestors' umbrella organization Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) said that though it appreciated the concern of the SC, it would not participate in any committee hearings and only speak to the government.

As the farmers were still demanding that the three farm laws be fully repealed, they announced that they would carry out a tractor rally inside Delhi on Republic Day, 2021. Security was beefed up in Delhi but the protest turned violent at the end of the day. Police had to use tear gas and lathi charge to disperse the violent crowd of farmers but the damage to Delhi was already done. A group of protestors entered inside the Red Fort and vandalised the premises. The parade was called off soon as the farm leaders blamed outsiders for turning the protests violent.

As the spring of 2021 passed, the second wave of Covid-19 hit India like never before. Protesting farmers announced that they still would still hold the protests. The government planned 'operation clean' to evict the farmers from the protest sites but they did not move out. Even their leader, most notably the BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, reiterated their determination to stay at the protest sites.

The protestors didn't do any major activities during the second wave but resumed their protest as the Covid-19 cases started declining. The problem of roadblocks had caused inconvenience to interstate commuters to Delhi, a lot of trouble as the Supreme court observed. Some of its observations were, "Farm Laws Have Been Stayed, What Are You Protesting Against?" on a writ petition to protest at Jantar Mantar, "You Have Strangulated Entire City, Now You Want To Come Inside?" and "Farmers Have Right To Protest But Can't Keep Roads Blocked Indefinitely."

Lakhimpur Kheri Violence

On 3rd October 2021, a car mowed down a group of farmers rallying in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri. Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra Teni's son was alleged to have been present inside the car. [Read the full series of events here] Following that, there was a major political unrest in the state of Uttar Pradesh with political leaders like Priyanka Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Chandrashekhar Azad being prevented from reaching the site in the follow-up protests. The son of the Union MoS was arrested and is being investigated.

Most recently, the Punjab Assembly had passed a resolution against the farm laws. Captain Amarinder Singh, the ex-CM of Punjab was in talks with the BJP and an alliance between his new party Punjab Lok Congress and BJP was being contemplated by the experts for the upcoming Punjab Assembly Elections in 2022. It is widely known that the three farm laws were a huge bone of contention between BJP and the voters of Punjab.

On Friday, November 19, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation announced that the centre has decided to repeal the farm laws. (With PTI inputs)