As tension prevails on Delhi borders where thousands of farmers are protesting against the Centre's new farm bills, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh announced support to the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), spearheading the protests. In an interview with Outlook’s Preetha Nair, the former Union minister said the farm protests shouldn’t be seen through the caste prism.
- Q) RLD extended support to Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait after he broke down over the government’s alleged ‘ill-treatment of protesting farmers.
We have been supporting the farmer protests all along. But on Thursday, when the police forcibly tried to remove protestors from the Ghazipur border, I called both BKU president Naresh Tikait and spokesperson Rakesh Tikait and extended support to them in their fight against the laws. Our vice-president Jayant Jayant Chaudhary has gone to Ghazipur today. It is a wrong notion that the farmers’ morale is down. After the Uttar Pradesh government tried to remove the people sitting on dharna, the farmers are angrier now. I don’t think that the agitation can be weakened by any methods.
- Q) Do you think that the protests lost momentum after the events at Red Fort on Republic Day? Some unions have withdrawn from the protests.
There is a view that the farmer agitation has been weakened, after whatever happened on Republic day. But the agitation has not weakened. The union leader, who withdrew from the protests, was removed two weeks ago. The government is trying to intimidate the farmer leaders by filing cases against them. They are issuing notices to the leaders without any investigation. There are cases against veteran journalists also. This is to suppress the movement. I don’t understand why the government is so insistent on carrying out these laws. They passed the Bills without any discussion in the Rajya Sabha and it was passed without any consultation with the farmers or any stakeholders.
- Q) After Tikait’s call on Thursday, there was a strong mobilization of farmers from western UP and Haryana. Many are interpreting it as a consolidation of Jats and Sikhs against the laws. What is your view on this?
There is no caste angle to it. It’s not only around Delhi, farmers from all neighboring states are included in the agitation. There is a largescale of participation from states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh among others. It’s a united farmer movement against the government’s ill-conceived laws. The farmers understand the disastrous consequences of the Bills.
- Q) The protestors allege that they are intimidated by police and administration in many ways.
UP is a police raj now. It’s appalling that the police and DM going to the houses of all the people who went to Delhi in tractors. It’s our constitutional right to protest. The intent is to stifle any dissent regarding farm laws.
- Q) Do you think political parties should be united in this? Where do you see the movement going?
The whole point today is to fight against the draconian laws. One has to bury political differences. It doesn’t matter what someone did in the past. We all have to be together in this. The farmers understand the implications of the law in their lives. They are not going to back down.