Even as uncertainty looms over their planned tractor rally on the Republic Day, farmer unions agitating against the new agri laws on Tuesday said their preparations are in full gear and authorities should facilitate the "peaceful march", instead of stopping it. After the Delhi Police sought an injunction on the tractor rally, the Supreme Court on Monday said the decision on it has to be taken by the Centre and the police, and the official permission is yet to be worked out.
Protesting unions, which plan to hold the rally on the Outer Ring Road in Delhi on January 26, have begun holding tractor rallies at villages in Punjab to mobilise people for the parade and and said more farmers will be heading to the national capital in batches later this week. There is a great enthusiasm among people in Punjab to become part of the tractor parade. Our batches will start moving towards Delhi from January 23 and 24, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Sidhupur) president Jagjit Singh Dallewal said 20,000-25,000 tractors would come to Delhi from Punjab alone for the planned parade. We want the government to give us permission for our rally. This is our country and it is our constitutional right to voice our needs and demands," said Amarjeet Singh Rarra, general secretary, Deaba Kisan Committee, said on Delhi's Singhu border.
We will march with our farmer unions' flags and the national flag. So if they fight us, they will be fighting the tiranga', he said. He added that instead of preventing the farmers from taking out the march, the Centre and the police should provide a safe corridor for the rally.
While the final plan for the rally is yet to be formulated, volunteers from among the protestors have been roped in to ensure discipline during the march, farmers said. "We met the police today to tell them that our rally will be completely non-violent, and they said they will scrutinise the route details and get back to us tomorrow.
"We also want to see what the government has to say tomorrow at the talks. We will then finalise the plan in 1-2 days, said Lakhbir Singh, All India Kisan Sabha, State Vice President (Punjab). The tractor rally, protestors said, was happening because the government had failed to meet their demands in the last two months, and would be a way to display the farmers' unity.
Our farmer union leaders have provided the government the road map of the parade in advance, so there shouldn't be any reason to not allow us. We have been protesting peacefully till now, and our rally will also be non-violent. It is our constitutional right to be able to enter Delhi, said Kurlal Singh from Punjab's Tarn Taran district.
"Rehearsals for the rally are going on back home in our villages. The volunteers here are being told how to maintain decorum during the march," said Sukhjit Singh Sidhu, a protesting farmer from Patiala who has been camping at the Delhi-Haryana border since November 26. Lakhs of people will turn up here from Thursday, after gurupurab (Guru Gobind Singh's birth anniversary) tomorrow, he said.
Meanwhile, the next round of talks with the government is scheduled for Wednesday. The talks have failed to yield any concrete result as the agitating unions have stuck to their main demand for repealing the agri laws and the government has ruled out any such step. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday hoped that protesting farmer unions will discuss alternatives other than the repeal of the laws in the tenth round of talks and appealed to them not to go ahead with their tractor rally.
"I want to appeal to farmers that January 26 is our Republic Day and the country has got independence after much sacrifice. "Ensuring that the dignity of the Republic day is not affected is the responsibility of farmers also. I hope they will reconsider their decision," he had said.
For nearly two months now, thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and other states have been protesting against the new farm laws as they apprehend that the Acts will erode the safety net of the Minimum Support Price system and leave them at the mercy of big corporations. The government, however, has discounted these fears and projected the three laws as major agricultural reforms.