New Delhi: More than fifty thousand farmers from across the country, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, on Friday marched from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament in the national capital demanding that the government pass legislation guaranteeing loan waivers and remunerative prices for their crops.
In the massive rally, organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), the protesters shouted slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Centre, alleging that it had failed to address their plight.
A host of opposition leaders, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, came together in a show of strength at Parliament Street as the BJP-led government emerged as the common enemy.
Kejriwal demanded that the Centre allow the implementation of the Swaminathan report. "A country where farmers are hungry cannot succeed," said the Delhi chief minister. "The BJP in the last election promised to implement Swaminathan report but it didn't do that. Now in the Supreme Court, the government has said that it cannot implement the Swaminathan report," said the Delhi CM. Kejriwal also said that farm loans have to be waived, adding that the crop insurance policy floated by the government is a "fraud".
Farmers had started marching from five different locations on Thursday and spent the night at Ramlila Maidan before proceeding for Parliament Street on Friday.
Taking up their cause, Rahul Gandhi made a scathing attack on the Centre and said no one will be able to silence the voice of farmers and youth. "If this government can waive Rs 3.5 lakh crore loans of 15 big industrialists, why can't the loans of crores of farmers in the country be waived? I assure the farmers of India, we are with you, don't be afraid," he said. He added that the farmers were not seeking a "free gift" from the government by asking for a farm loan waiver but were only demanding their dues.
A regular at all farmer rallies, senior CPI(M )leader and member of the Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury called Modi a "pocket maar" as he compared the prime minister and BJP president Amit Shah with the Kauravas in the Mahabharat. Yechury also told the farmers that an alternative government would be able to solve their problems.
Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav also lashed out at "anti-farmer Modi". While addressing the gathering, the former AAP leader said, "There are two mantras for farmers' liberation: learn to speak up and identify your enemies, which should be easy.” He added, "No party is as anti-farmer as the present regime."
As the rally arrived at the Parliament Street, Tamil Nadu farmers took off their clothes and used the skulls and bones of their "dead crop growers" to cover their private parts. Approximately 1,200 members of the National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturalists Association reached the national capital on Thursday carrying skulls of two of their colleagues who they claimed had committed suicide. Some were also spotted wearing a garland of dairy products.
Farmers who were part of the 2017 Mandsaur protest left Madhya Pradesh after casting their votes in the November 28 Assembly election. The protesters complained on Friday that due to faulty policies of the Centre, farmers are dying under the burden of debt.
Kedar Sarohi from Harda district in Madhya Pradesh said the BJP-ruled state, which boasts of development, has no empathy towards the cultivators. Kedar, who was also part of the Mandsaur protest, said that the government tried to hide its own shortcomings.
At least, 3,500 police personnel were deployed on the route of the march. Special arrangements were made in Central and New Delhi police districts. After the traffic came to a halt in Lutyens' Delhi due to large-scale farmers' protest, Deputy Commissioner of Police Madhur Verma said that multiple rounds of talks with protesting leaders were held, following which they were given permission to move to Jantar Mantar.
Surrounded by criticism against its government's policies, the BJP — which had no representation at the farmers rally — attacked the Opposition parties for targeting it. Hitting out at the Congress, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said at a press conference, "The 'naamdaar' family has done only one thing and only is corruption.”
“Grabbing farmers' land and indulging in corruption has been the work of Robert Vadra and the entire Gandhi family. Robert Vadra is the biggest farmer in the Gandhi family who grows money instead of moong and masoor," he added.
Patra also claimed that the people of the country had abandoned Rahul Gandhi and Kejriwal, and so their attempts would remain inconclusive.