Dimming hopes of a compromise, a joint front of protesting farmer groups on Friday rejected the Centre’s proposals to amend the three contentious agriculture laws and called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8 to widen the agitation. The front reiterated the farmers’ demand for a total repeal of the three Central laws.
The announcement by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha came ahead of a crucial round of talks, scheduled on Saturday, between the joint front of farmer unions and top Central Ministers, tasked with negotiating a deal with the protesters.
Addressing a press conference at the Singhu border here, the Morcha leaders said the decision to seek a repeal of the three laws was reached unanimously after two rounds of talks — the first between the leaders of Punjab farmers organisations and the second with farmers’ unions across the country.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal) general-secretary Harvinder Singh Lakhowal, who presided over the morning meetings, said the farmer unions had given a call for a nationwide ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8, besides deciding to burn the effigies of the Modi government and corporate houses on December 5.
Mr. Lakhowal said, sportspersons and other dignitaries would return their medals to the government on December 7 as a mark of protest. He said toll barriers across the country would be made “free” for a day on a later date.
He added that the farmers unions would also attempt to close the two highways leading to Delhi that are still open by December 8.
Mr. Lakhowal said the government had, at the December 3 meeting, agreed to make amendments to the three laws, withdraw the ordinance on stubble burning and make a law on Minimum Support Price to an extent, but the unions wanted a complete withdrawal of the three laws. He claimed that the movement had support pouring in from across the country, with sit-ins and protests in Bengaluru and other parts of Karnataka as well.
Bharatiya Kisan Union general-secretary Yudhvir Singh also addressed the joint press conference, saying the farmers were fast losing patience and were ready for a “do-or-die” battle.
“There was strong consensus among the farmer leaders that nothing short of the withdrawal of three laws would be acceptable. The farmer leaders also stressed the demand for legal guarantee on Minimum Support Price,” said Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav, present at the media briefing.
Trade union support
Mr. Yadav said the BKU leader sharing the platform with the Morcha leaders was an important development since the union was earlier holding “parallel” negotiations. “Ten big federations of trade unions also pledged their support to the movement. There are spontaneous protests across the country in support of the agitation just as we saw during the ‘Anna movement’,” said Mr. Yadav.
Farmer leaders from several States addressed the media briefing, stressing that it was an all-India movement and their demand for repeal of the three farm laws was “non-negotiable”. Claiming that the movement was headed for a “historic win” and the government for a “historic defeat”, the leaders stressed that the talks on Saturday would be only about the withdrawal of the three laws and nothing else.
Source: The Hindu