Farmer leaders on Tuesday said they welcome the Supreme Court order staying the implementation of the three farm laws till further orders, but will continue to protest till the contentious legislations are repealed. They also expressed doubts over the neutrality of the panel formed by the top court to end the impasse, a view shared by the Congress party. The agitating farmers made it clear they will not participate in the committee process.
Reacting to court ruling, the government said the order to stay the implementation of the farm laws is against its wish but that the direction of the apex court is “sarva-manya” (acceptable to all), welcoming the composition of an “impartial” committee to resolve the deadlock. Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary said whatever decision is taken by the court will be “taken to ensure that the laws are kept the way they are”.
While opposition parties like NCP and DMK welcomed the SC order and hoped it will help to resolve the deadlock, Congress leaders expressed apprehension over the members chosen for the committee, saying they are known for their support to the three Acts.
In a statement, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) said, “It is clear that the court is being misguided by various forces even in its constitution of a committee. These are people who are known for their support to the three Acts and have actively advocated for the same.”
The four members of the committee are Bhupinder Singh Mann, President of Bhartiya Kisan Union; Anil Ghanwat, President of Shetkeri Sangthana, Maharashtra; Pramod Kumar Joshi, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, and agriculture economist Ashok Gulati. Addressing a press conference at Singhu (Delhi-Haryana) border, farmer leaders claimed the members of the committee formed by the top court are “pro-government".
“The members of the SC-appointed committee are not dependable as they have been writing on how agri laws are pro-farmer. We will continue our agitation," said farmer leader Balbeer Singh Rajewal. “We are against the committee on principle. It is the government’s way to distract attention from the protest."
The farmer leaders also said the Supreme Court can repeal the farm laws suo motu. “We welcome the court’s order to stay the implementation of the farm laws, but we want a complete repeal of these laws, which is our main demand," said Abhimanyu Kohar, a senior leader of the Sankyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of around 40 protesting farmer unions.
Another leader, Harinder Lokhwal, said the protest will continue until the laws are repealed.
Opposition welcomes SC order
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also raised questions over the formation of the committee, asking can justice be expected from people who have given written support to the “anti-agriculture laws”.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambram said the concern expressed by the Supreme Court over the farmers’ protests is “justified and welcome in the situation created by a stubborn government".
Nationalist Congress Party Chief Sharad Pawar welcomed the apex court’s decision to put on hold the implementation of the new laws.
“It is a big relief for farmers and I hope that a concrete dialogue between the Central government and farmers will be initiated now, keeping the farmers interests and wellbeing in mind," he said.
Echoing similar views, DMK chief MK Stalin said the court verdict is a victory for farmers protesting across India. “I once again urge the Union government to commit to repealing the farm laws in the next Parliament Session," he said.
The CPI(ML) claimed the stay has been done to give farmers “a perception of achievement" so that they may withdraw the protest. Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has asked the state Advocate General to examine in detail the Court order and called a meeting of his cabinet to discuss it, the CM’s media advisor said.
The top court has sought the cooperation of the protesting farmers and made it clear that no power can prevent it from setting up a panel to resolve the impasse over the controversial farm laws. Thousands of farmers, mostly from Haryana and Punjab, have been protesting at several border points of Delhi since November 28 last year, demanding a repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee to the minimum support price (MSP) system for their crops.