As they ring in the new year away from families, the fight is far from over for thousands of farmers protesting at Delhi borders with their leaders saying that only 10 per cent of their demands have been met by the Centre even as they hoped that 2021 may bring them some good news.
In the sixth round of talks with leaders of the farmers’ unions in Delhi Wednesday, the Centre addressed the their concerns over the increasing power tariff and penalties for stubble burning. Among the key issues that continue to remain unresolved are the revocation of the new laws and a legal guarantee of the minimum support price for their crops.
“The government moved one step. They agreed to 10 per cent of our demands but 90 per cent still remain. We had postponed our tractor march proposed for December 31. On that we will take a call on based on the outcome of the next meeting on January 4,” said Gurnam Singh Chaduni, the Haryana BKU chief.
Chaduni sad that the government “will have to bow before people’s power”. He said the “aandolan” against the agri laws is getting bigger and bigger the “government has started feeling the heat”.
Harmesh Singh, a farmer from Punjab’s Hoshiarpur protesting at Singhu border, said the demands accepted by the Centre were not laws. “Their impact was yet to be felt. And we went to the government with the demands with clarity. They cannot pick and choose what suits them. They have to listen to all our demands,” he said.
“If the government wants to see our strength, we will show them. People like us who are used to living in ‘kothis’ (bungalows) are now sleeping on the road. We have been protesting peacefully for a month, we can keep protesting for a year too,” added Bhupinder Singh, also from Hoshiarpur.
Farmers have been protesting at Delhi borders against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
All India Kisan Maha Sabha (AIKMS) national president, Ruldu Singh Mansa termed the acceptance of two demands as a major climbdown by the Centre. “Earlier, they had been stressing that they are right on every issue. On our demand for repeal of laws, they have been talking about amendments, which is not acceptable to us. They have suggested setting up of a panel on the purchase of crops at MSP. It is a vast subject and cannot be decided in haste. We too need to think over this,” Ruldu Singh said, adding that the “government is slowly realising that it needs to heed to people’s power”.
“Government has realised that more and more people are joining this aandolan. It is a people’s aandolan now. December 29 rallies in Bihar and Tamil Nadu saw participation of thousands of farmers. In Bihar, they had to resort to lathi charge to stop farmers from joining the rally. We told the ministers that it is the country’s movement and I think that they too have started accepting it,” said the AIKMS’s Haryana unit chief Prem Singh Gehlawat.
Harmeet Singh Kadian, who leads BKU (Kadian), said that the deadlock between farmers and the government broke when the latter accepted two demands of the peasants but “we stand firm on our demand of ‘no daleel but only repeal’ on farm laws”.
Rajinder Singh Deepsinghwala, general secretary Kirti Kisan Union too said that while the farmers’ key demands are yet to be met, the “government, as of now, is on backfoot and we hope that new year will bring some good news for the farmers”. He said the agitation against the three laws is getting bigger. “Rallies have happened in Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Hyderabad. Farmers’ leaders from Punjab are travelling to different parts of India,” he added.
BKU (Dakaunda) general secretary Jagmohan Singh Patiala, said, “Central government is bowing to the public anger. This is the reason that they have agreed to two of our demands. We (farmers) are united and determined to take our struggle ahead if our demands are not met. We are not going to step back even an inch”.
Meanwhile, at Singhu border the farmers protesting at the Singhu border for over a month now said they are ringing in the New Year sans any celebrations. “There is no New Year for us until the government accepts our demands,” said Harjinder Singh from Punjab’s Ropar, who has been camping at the Delhi-Haryana border since November 25. “Yes, we have a family back home and we are missing them, but this is also our family. All these farmers are our brothers, and uncles,” said Harjinder.
Gurpreet Hayer from Jalandhar and Pratap Singh from Bhatinda have decided to do ‘sewa’ in the New Year as they had done in the past.
Gurpreet said he will be working with Gursikh Sewa Society to put up a “turban langar” for all the farmers on Friday. “We will celebrate the New Year by doing sewa. There are many farmers who don’t know how to tie a turban, or don’t have a fresh turban. We will give them that,” he said.
Among the bare minimum celebrations, the Working People’s Charter has called upon people from across the country to usher in the New Year with the farmers.
“These laws are not just anti-farmer but also anti-poor. And we want all the people who go out to celebrate New Year to come and celebrate with the farmers, with the aim of demanding social justice for them. There will be bonfire, good conversations and songs of revolution,” said Nirmal Agni from Working People’s Charter.