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Can’t Make Us Leave Like They Did in Shaheen Bagh, Protesting Farmers Warn Centre

Farmers gather at Tikri border during their protest against the Centre's farm reform laws, in New Delhi on December 19, 2020. (PTI Photo)

Farmers gather at Tikri border during their protest against the Centre's farm reform laws, in New Delhi on December 19, 2020. (PTI Photo)

Upping the ante ahead of the next round of talks, farmer unions warned that they will start shutting all malls and petrol pumps in Haryana if the government fails to resolve their main demands.

Farmer unions on Friday warned that they will start shutting all malls and petrol pumps in Haryana if the government fails to resolve their main demands for the repeal of three new farm reform laws and a legal guarantee for MSP in the next round of talks on January 4.

Addressing a press conference at the Singhu border protest site, representatives of farmer unions said that only five per cent of the issues raised by them have so far been discussed in meetings with the government, and outlined multiple protest actions over a month if their main demands are not met.

Farmer leader Yudhveer Singh said if the central government thinks the farmers' protest will go the Shaheen Bagh way, then it is mistaken. "They (government) cannot make us leave this place like they did in Shaheen Bagh," he said."

Hundreds of protesters had camped at Shaheen Bagh for several months against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and later, the site was cleared by the Delhi Police following the coronavirus-induced lockdown in March last year. At the press conference, farmer leaders made it clear that they will have to take firm steps if the government does not take a decision in their favour in the January 4 meeting.

The warning from farmers came even as agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government is hopeful of a "positive outcome" at its next meeting with farmers' unions. Speaking to news agency PTI, the minister said that the last meeting held on December 30, 2020, happened in a cordial atmosphere and there is a possibility of positive results in the interest of farmers and of the country's farm sector at the next meeting.

After the sixth round of formal negotiations on Wednesday, the government and farm unions reached some common ground to resolve protesting farmers' concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning, but the two sides remained deadlocked over the main contentious issues of the repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP.

After the talks, agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said at least 50 per cent resolution has been reached with mutual agreement on two out of four items on the agenda and discussions would continue on the remaining two on January 4 at 2 PM.

However, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav on Friday said that the government has not moved an inch on the two main issues - repeal of three agri laws and legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP). He claimed that the government has denied giving in-principle commitment to the issue of legal guarantee for MSP.

Spelling out their next course of action, Yadav said that while talks with the Union government will go on, farmer unions will intensify the protest simultaneously and take it to every corner of the country. "If the January 4 meeting with the government fails to end the deadlock, we will announce dates for shutting all malls, petrol pumps in Haryana," another farmer leader, Vikas, told reporters.

At a meeting of Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of around 40 farmer unions protesting at several Delhi border points, several decisions were taken. According to the unions, rallies, dharnas, sit-ins and press conferences will be ogranised across the country from January 6 to January 20 to counter alleged government propaganda that the protest was Punjab-centric.

Farmers will celebrate Women's Day on January 18 and the modalities will be discussed later, farmer leaders said, adding that programmes will be held on to mark birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on January 23.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, are protesting at various borders of the national capital for more than a month against these three new laws. The government has presented these laws as major agriculture reforms aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear that the new legislations have left them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the MSP and mandi systems.


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