Farmer leaders on Thursday said they will consult senior lawyers, including Colin Gonsalves, Dushyant Dave and Prashant Bhushan, before deciding the next course of action after the Supreme Court said it was thinking of setting up an "impartial and independent" panel of agriculture experts and farmers’ unions to resolve the deadlock over the contentious farm laws. The protesting farmer leaders welcomed the apex court's move to acknowledge the right of farmers to non-violent protests, but asserted that their agitation will continue until a concrete solution is found.
"We will meet senior lawyers Colin Gonsalves, Dushyant Dave, HS Phoolka and Prashant Bhushan on Friday and consult them about what can be done," Abhimanyu Kohar, a leader of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, told news agency PTI. He said the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of around 40 farmer unions protesting at Delhi's border points, has not received any notice from the Supreme Court, adding that it will comment on the matter only after seeing a copy of the court's order.
Senior Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Dharampal Malik said a technical team has been formed by the union, adding that the Centre should first make its stance clear on whether it wants to put the contentious farm laws on hold. "We will first read the Supreme Court's order, consult our lawyers and then decide the next course of action," he said.
Meanwhile, the protesting farmers observed a two-minute silence on Thursday to pay their respects to Sikh preacher Sant Ram Singh, who allegedly died by suicide at the Singhu border on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court acknowledged the right of farmers to non-violent protests and mooted the idea of putting on hold the contentious farm laws to enable negotiations with the agitating farmers, which was opposed by the Centre, which said the agriculturists would not come forward for the talks then.
The apex court, which made it clear that the issue of farmers' protest and the right of others to move freely would be dealt on priority at the moment and not the validity of the laws, also said it was thinking of setting up an "impartial and independent" panel of agriculture experts and farmer unions to resolve the impasse. The top court said it was of the view that the farmers' right to protest should not infringe the fundamental right of others to move freely and in getting essential food and other supplies as right to protest cannot mean blocking the entire city.
The apex court, which said it was worried with the way things are going on, was told by both the Centre and one of the farmers' unions that the negotiations are not happening at the moment. It also said the farmers cannot keep on protesting without talking to the government.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, meanwhile, wrote a letter to protesting farmers, saying the minimum support price (MSP) will continue.
In his eight-page emotional letter to farmers, Tomar said that most of the farmers are happy with the Centre's three new farm bills, but some confusion has been created by certain sections as part of a "conspiracy" to create tensions based on "falsehoods". In the beginning of his letter, he said that he has been touch with the farmers of the country over the last few days. "And in the last few days I also met and discussed the three farm laws with several farmer unions who have welcomed the government's move. But the other aspect of this that some people are trying to spread falsehoods," he said.
"As the agriculture minister of the country, it is his duty to clear the air over the three farm laws. As agriculture minister, it is my responsibility to break the conspiracy that is being spread in the name of the farm laws between the government and the farmer sitting on protest near Delhi's borders,” Tomar wrote.
He further said: "I belong to a farmer's family and since childhood, I have experienced the tough life of farmers. And I also know what it takes to grow or sell crops. It is very satisfactory that after implementation of the law, MSP procurement has set a new record this time." He further said that 80 per cent of farmers own just one to two acres of land and under the new three farm laws greater freedom has been given to them to sell their crops.Without naming Opposition parties, Tomar said, "A lie is being spread in the name of MSP and mandis. The fact is that nothing is going to change." He also said that in the last six years the government has done a lot of work for farmers. "Through these bills, the government has provided an additional option for farmers to sell their product anywhere they want," Tomar said. He also said that the MSP and APMC mandis will continue and the government is ready to give a written assurance in this regard.
Targeting the Congress, the minister said: "Congress sat on recommendations made in the Swaminathan Committee report for eight years. And these days, they are working again to create tension. They have even questioned our Army and their supreme sacrifice in Leh-Ladakh."
The minister said the opposition parties who lost their support base are trying their best to gain ground by raising the issues of farmers. He also warned the farmers that in the name of farmer agitation several such people have entered into the fray who have nothing to do with farmers’ welfare.
"For the last six years you must have witnessed that several such groups have tried to create a divide in society and they are again doing the same by entering into the farmers’ agitation."