- Thousands of farmers protesting near Delhi borders since last week
- Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will lead talks with protesting farmers
- Farm laws will not be repealed, the protesters are likely to be told
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will lead talks today with the protesting farmers, sources say, adding he met Home Minister Amit Shah, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, BJP chief JP Nadda this morning. This is the second meeting between top BJP leaders in less than 48 hours amid massive protests against contentious farm laws. The government will try to assure the farmers about the new agricultural laws, according to sources, and dispel rumours over the minimum support price. The laws will not be repealed, the protesters are likely to be told.
Here are 10 developments in this big story:
Three days ahead of the scheduled meet, Mr Tomar on Monday invited the farmers for talks today at 3 pm, as he cited coronavirus and cold. “On November 13, we had decided we will meet on December 3, but farmers are in a mood to protest. We request you to leave the protest and find a solution through talks,” he said. Mr Tomar has met Amit Shah thrice in two days, sources say, after farmers threatened to block Delhi.
Farmers have said they will attend the talks. “The government has invited us without preconditions and we’re going for the talks. About 35 representatives will go, and we will demand the laws be repealed. We will also demand law on MSP. If the government doesn’t agree, the protests will continue,” Jagjit Singh Dallewal of the Bharatiya Kisan Union said after the meeting. Earlier, one of the 32 farmer unions invited for talks backed out and demanded all 500 organisations that are part of protests be invited.
Prime Minister Narendra defended farm laws on Monday again as he said: “New laws don’t stop old system. If someone thinks that the earlier system is better, how is this law stopping anyone?” He reassured farmers that the new open market system will not mean the end to the traditional mandis and the MSP. On Sunday, the Prime Minister in his monthly radio address- “Mann Ki Baat” – had said that the centre’s new laws have “opened more opportunities” for the farmers, and have fulfilled their long-pending demands.
On Sunday, the farmers had said they will block five entry points to Delhi: Sonipat, Rohtak, Jaipur, Ghaziabad-Hapur, and Mathura. The protest, which has been planned for over two months, is said to be supported by around 3 lakh farmers. “We have a one-point demand – to repeal the three new farm laws. That’s the only discussion we want. Centre trying to divert our attention with small talk, hence the resistance,” Hannan Mollah, one of the leaders, told NDTV today.
As farmers continue to camp around Delhi borders, key roads near neighbouring Haryana remain closed. The Delhi Police has told commuters to take alternate routes as Sighu Border and Tikri border remain shut.
All khaps of Haryana have unanimously decided to support the farmers’ protest and will proceed towards Delhi today. “We request the centre to re-consider farm laws. Everyone has a right to express themselves,” Sombir Sangwan, Haryana Khap Pradhan and Dadri MLA, was quoted as saying by news agency ANI. A khap is a union of few villages.
On Saturday, Amit Shah had said the government was ready to deliberate on “every problem and demand” of the protesters. The Home Minister, however, had said the protest will have to be shifted to a designated venue for early discussions. As the farmers refused the offer, top BJP leaders held a late-night meeting at JP Nadda’s house on Sunday to discuss the issue, sources said.
A case has been filed by Delhi Police on the clash at the Singhu border in Delhi, including rioting and damage to government property. The case was filed at the Alipur police station under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including obstruction to public servants while performing their duty.
One of the protesters died on Sunday night after suffering a heart attack — the second since the farmers’ march to Delhi started last week. Gajjan Singh from a Khattra, a village in Ludhiana district of Punjab, died at Tikri border. A day earlier, another volunteer who had come to help farmers with vehicle repairs had died; he was burnt alive as his car caught fire overnight when he was sleeping.
Thousands of farmers, who have braved water cannons, tear gas and police barricades, began their protest last week against the farm laws, aimed at doing away with middlemen and allow them to sell produce anywhere in the country. Farmers and opposition parties allege the laws will deprive the farmers of minimum support price and leave them at the mercy of corporates. Ex-Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, BSP chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav have backed the protests in their tweets.