Amid high drama at Haryana’s border with Punjab, authorities allowed former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and a few party leaders to enter the BJP-ruled state as part of his rally against farm laws. After winding up his last rally at Sanaur in Patiala, Gandhi drove a tractor to reach the Haryana border on the final day of his ‘Kheti Bachao Yatra’, accompanied by Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar and senior party leader Harish Rawat.
A number of Congress workers accompanied Gandhi from Patiala, but the procession was stopped on the highway near Teokar village on Pehowa border for an hour. Before Gandhi arrived at the Punjab-Haryana border, senior Haryana police officials at the spot said they would not allow more than 100 people to gather at one place as per the guidelines in place due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Gandhi and a few Congress leaders were later allowed to enter Haryana where the former Congress chief has a couple of programmes scheduled. On the Haryana side, state Congress chief Kumari Selja, senior leaders Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Kiran Choudhary, Ajay Singh Yadav and party’s Haryana affairs in-charge Vivek Bansal were present.
Ahead of Gandhi’s rally in Haryana, the BJP-led government on Monday had said the Congress leader can bring a few people in the state but it will not permit a big crowd from Punjab which can “disturb" the atmosphere. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said Gandhi has the right to put forth his views but “if he comes with a big procession from Punjab, we won’t allow it".
Haryana’s Home Minister Anil Vij had said if Gandhi comes with “a big crowd from Punjab to disturb Haryana’s atmosphere, then we will not permit it. We are not going to allow that".
Gandhi’s attack on Centre
Gandhi on Tuesday kept up the attack on the Centre over new farm laws, saying the fight against these legislations was not of farmers or labourers alone, but it was “India’s fight". Addressing a gathering on the concluding day of his ‘Kheti Bachao Yatra’, which started from Moga district on Sunday, Gandhi said if these measures are implemented, farmers and labourers will become the “slaves" of a few corporates. He said in one or two years, their land would be taken over by these few “chosen" corporates.
“Whether you want to believe it or not, do remember that Rahul and Amarinder Singh once told you that your land will be snatched," he told the gathering where a number of farmers were present along with their tractors.
“This is the time to take action. If you wait for six months or one year, then it will be of no use," said Gandhi, adding that the loss was not just of farmers, farm labourers and small traders, but it was of the entire country.
Gandhi said if farmers are hit, which he claimed will become a reality with the implementation of the new laws, then India’s food security will be finished. “And if that happens, the entire country will once again become a slave," he said. “This fight is not just of farmers and labourers, but this is India’s fight."
He told farmers that corporates will dictate the terms and they will have to accept the price that they want to give. "When your land goes, they will build malls and flats. We do not want such a thing to happen. The Congress will not allow this to happen. I can guarantee that we will not go back by an inch and we will carry on this fight. When our government will be formed, we will revoke these laws," Gandhi said.
Attacking the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, Gandhi said that for six years this dispensation did nothing for the poor, weaker sections, farmers and small shopkeepers. "For six years, they did nothing for farmers. Whatever they did was for the rich class," he said, adding that the Centre waived Rs 3.50 lakh crore worth of loans of rich industrialists, but not of farmers.
He said in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, this government brought in the three farm bills. "What was the hurry? Why not bring them six months or one year later," he asked and then added that they did so because the BJP-led government thought during COVID, the farmers of Punjab, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan cannot stand and this is the right time to bring in these measures.
"But he (PM) does not know that farmers are strong and will fight against these laws," he said. The Congress leader also asked that if these laws were in favour of farmers, then why did the government not debate them in Parliament.
Gandhi said that MSP, Food Corporation of India and the mandi system are there to protect farmers, and this entire structure gives them security, but the Centre wants to break it. The food distribution system and mandi system, are like a fort which protects farmers, he said, adding he agreed there are a few shortcomings in the present system, but those need to be corrected, and breaking an entire system like the Centre was doing was not the right way to go about it.
Among others present on the occasion were Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress leaders Harish Rawat, Pratap Singh Bajwa, Sunil Jakhar, Manish Tewari and Preneet Kaur.
(With inputs from PTI)