The Congress on Friday claimed Union minister Rattan Lal Kataria likened protesting farmers to a "mad bull", a charge denied by the Minister of State for Jal Shakti. Kataria said his remarks had been "misinterpreted".
Speaking to reporters in Haryana's Panchkula, Kataria was asked to comment on the state police's action against farmers last month during their march to Delhi to protest against the Centre's agriculture reform laws. "Law and order is a different issue and it is the duty of the government to maintain it," he replied.
In the same breath, he added, "Let's assume there's a 'jhota' (bull) which has gone mad and is charging at me, so I will take some action in self-defence. I have to save my life." Asked if he was likening farmers to a "mad bull", the BJP MP from Ambala said, "I am not referring to farmers. I have said this many times lest it is misinterpreted. Farmers are our 'annadata', they are our God. They have made us self-sufficient, there is no question of any fight with them." "I used the word 'jhota' for those anti-social elements who fire from their (farmers) shoulders and raise Khalistani slogans. This was not (said) in the context of farmers," Kataria said. Haryana Congress leader Ashok Arora hit out at the Union minister, saying his remarks show the mindset of BJP leaders.
"The farmers have been on the roads for several weeks demanding the repeal of the farm laws, but instead of accepting their demands and showing some sympathy, their (BJP) leaders are making such objectionable remarks against them," he said. Earlier on December 1, a group of over 100 farmers protesting against the farm laws had shown black flags to Kataria at an event in Jandli village adjoining Ambala city.
Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country. However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price (MSP) and do away with mandis that ensure income, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
While the government has offered to amend the laws and give a written assurance to farmers that the MSP regime will continue, the farmers have stuck to their demand for the withdrawal of the farm laws.