Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar met last night at BJP chief JP Nadda’s Delhi house, sources said, hours after the farmers protesting in and around the national capital rejected the centre’s proposal of holding early talks to discuss their grievances. The government held discussions on the protests by thousands of farmers that began last week. The meeting reportedly went on for over two hours.
Amid massive protests against the three contentious agricultural laws, Amit Shah on Saturday said the government was ready to deliberate on “every problem and demand”. The Home Minister, however, had said the protest will have to be shifted to a designated venue if the farmers wanted to hold early discussions with the government; the talks have been scheduled for December 3.
During the meeting, the top BJP leaders also discussed the sparring between the Chief Ministers of Haryana and Punjab – ML Khattar and Captain Amarinder Singh – in the last few days over the farm laws, and handling of the protests after the farmers began their march to Delhi last week and crossed borders of the three states, sources said.
Over the last few days, the protesters have faced water cannons, tear gas and police barricades.
As the protests entered the fourth day, the farmers, after a meeting on Sunday morning, said the government should have approached with “an open heart” and not put preconditions. The government’s offer was rejected over fears that the protest spots the centre suggested can become jails – a concern that started after the Delhi Police sought permission from the Arvind Kejriwal government to turn stadiums to jails for protesters.
The farmers also threatened to block the roads to Delhi from five entry points – Sonipat, Rohtak, Jaipur, Ghaziabad-Hapur, and Mathura. “We’ve decided that we’ll never go to Burari Park (protest site suggested by the government) as we got proof that it’s an open jail. Delhi Police told the Uttarakhand Farmers Association chief that they’ll take them to Jantar Mantar but instead locked them at Burari Park,” Surjeet Phul, Bharatiya Kisan Union president, told reporters on Sunday.
“Instead of going to open jail in Burari, we’ve decided that we will gherao Delhi by blocking five main entry points to Delhi. We’ve got ration for four months with us, so there’s nothing to worry. Our Operations Committee will decide everything,” he added.
The protest, planned for over two months, has the support of 500 farmers’ organisations.
According to the government, the new laws will remove middlemen and improve farmers’ earnings by allowing them to sell produce anywhere in the country. Farmers and opposition parties, however, allege that the laws will deprive the farmers of guaranteed minimum price for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporates.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi – in his monthly radio address “Mann Ki Baat” – on Sunday said that the centre’s reforms in the agricultural sector have opened “many more opportunities” for the farmers, and have met their long-pending demands.