The agitating kisan unions and the central government are now on the path of confrontation as the talks between the two have got deadlocked.
The eleventh round of talks held on January 22 failed as the Kisan unions rejected the offer of the government of suspending the implementation of the three farm laws passed by the NDA government for a period of eighteen months and formation of a committee which could comprise the representatives of the farmers and the agricultural experts to discuss the farm laws and decide on the changes in the new laws.
The kisan unions have insisted on the repeal of the laws nothing short. This decision of the kisan unions have irked the central government.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendera Tomar who has been holding talks with the kisan unions along with Piyush Goal, Minister for Railways and Som Parkash, Minister of state for the past two months, declared at the end of the eleventh round of talks that this was best offer which the government could make to the farmers and nothing beyond that.
He said that there would be no repeal of the laws and no further talks would be held with the farmers unions. He has told them to reconsider the offer of the government and convey their decision to the government.
But the kisan unions who have also adopted a strong stand on the demand for repeal of the laws, have decided not to reply to the government and concentrate on the holding of the tractor parade in Delhi on January 26. The kisan unions have made it a prestige issue to hold the tractor parade in Delhi in the area of outer ring road in a peaceful manner.
The Supreme Court had refused to interfere in the question of holding of the tractor march in Delhi and left the issue with the Delhi police since it was a law and order situation and the Supreme Court had no role to play in the same. The talks between the representatives of the kisan unions and Delhi police have also failed and Delhi police is not inclined to grant permission for the tractor march inside Delhi.
The farmers unions from various parts of the country including Punjab, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, Uttrakhand and other states have been camping in thousands on the periphery of the national capital at Singhu border, Tikri Border, Gazipur border and on Delhi-Rajasthan border for the past two months to press for the repeal of the three farm laws and have refused to lift their dharna till the demands were conceded by the government.
The Supreme Court has also setup a four member committee consisting of agricultural experts to study the demands of the farmers. One member of the committee Bhupinder Singh Mann of the BKU (Mann) has already recused himself from the committee and now there are only the three members of the committee. The kisan unions have also rejected the Supreme Court appointed committee saying that they have no faith in this committee as the members of the committee have written articles in the newspapers in support of the three farm laws.
The dharna by the kisan unions so far has been very peaceful and no untoward incident has been reported from any part of the farmers’ camps. However, there have been number of deaths of farmers including some women at the dharna camps due to the severe cold. According to latest estimates as many as 78 farmers have died at the camps so far. Otherwise more than 100 farmers have died as some were killed during dharnas and rail roko agitation before the start of dharnas around Delhi.
Delhi police has not granted permission for the tractor parade because it apprehends that there will be violence and law and order situation will suffer. However, the kisan unions maintain that they have been holding peaceful dharna for the past two months and not a single incident of violence has taken place. They have assured Delhi police that there will be no violence and they will ensure peace during the march.
Lakhs of tractors from all over the states of Punjab, Haryana, UP and other states have started arriving at the borders along the national capital. The farmers unions have assured Delhi police that no disturbances would be caused at the official Republic Day function on Rajpath. They maintain that they also have a democratic right to celebrate Republic Day and they are doing it with the tractor march which are their means of cultivation.
Meanwhile the NIA (National Investigation Agency) has started issuing notices to some of the participants in the dharna and to those who are supporting the agitation by the farmers. Notices have been issued to NGO like the Khalsa Aid which is known globally for doing humanitarian service to the human beings by providing food and other essential articles of daily use.
Notices to about 40 persons have been issued and they have been asked to appear before NIA in Delhi on different dates. The issuance of notice by the NIA has caused resentment among the kisan unions and the organizations supporting the agitation.
The farmers unions have already lodged their strong protest with the central government during their meetings with three central ministers who have been holding negotiations with them.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has strongly condemned the NIA for the notices to the farmers and other supporters and described the same as pressure tactics to brow beat the farmers.
The leaders of the farmers unions have also alleged that some of them have received abuses and threats to their lives for not accepting the proposals of the government.
The stalemate in the talks between the farmers unions and the government has caused lot of fear among the people as they feel that this may result in violent clashes. The farmers have assured that they would remain peaceful against any provocations. The major worry is now what will happen if the farmers are not allowed to take out tractor parade as lakhs of tractors have reached the borders and are further marching to the dharna camps.
KS Chawla is a senior journalist based at Ludhiana.
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