New Delhi: The farmers’ representatives have turned down the Centre’s second pitch for a committee to discuss the contentious farm laws, protests against which are intensifying by the day. “Now is not the time for a committee,” sources quoted farmers’ representatives as saying at the meeting with three central ministers this evening. A second meeting will be held on December 3. More farmers from Punjab and khaps from Haryana are making their way to the national capital, demanding that the laws be repealed. The farmers have said they will continue the protest if their demands are not accepted.
Agriculture minister Narendra Tomar had suggested the formation of a committee, asking farmers to put down the names of their representatives who would be part of it, sources said. The committee, he said, should also have people from the government and agricultural experts to discuss the farm laws.
“We wanted a small group, but they (the farmers) said they will talk together. We don’t mind that. We would like them to end the protest and come for talks. But this depends on the farmers,” Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar said after the meeting. Mr Tomar, his cabinet colleague Piyush Goyal and junior industry minister Som Parkash had met the 35-member farmers’ team this afternoon.
“We do not accept the government’s proposal to set up a special committee. We demand that the government cancel the laws related to agrarian reform. We are not going to back down even if the government uses force. Our protest will continue,” Roop Singh, a leader of key farmers’ organisation Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), said.
The idea of setting up a Special Committee was also floated in the second round of meeting on November 13. But many farmer union leaders are strongly opposed to this and demand a categorical assurance that the three new laws will be repealed.
“Tomorrow, there will be an important meeting of the leaders of the farmers organization, in which today’s meeting with the government will be reviewed. After this, talks between the government and farmers organisations will be held everyday from the December 3. It has been decided that the negotiations between the government and the farmers organizations will continue till the deadlock and dispute are over,” Wark Singh, leader of All India Kisan Sabha said.
Tuesday morning, Union home minister Amit Shah had a meeting with defence minister Rajnath Singh, railway minister Piyush Goyal and agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar at the home of BJP chief JP Nadda. This was the third high-level meeting in the last 48 hours.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad Tuesday joined the farmers who have been camping outside Delhi. “The Centre tried to defame and stop the farmers’ agitation…Our mothers, children, elderly were stopped with watercannons, barbed wires, tear gas shells… they are not militants. Such treatment shows how afraid the government is of the farmers’ movement,” he said.
In Haryana, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party, which is ruling the state in alliance with the BJP, appeared uncomfortable with the crackdown on farmers. The government must “think big and find a solution to the farmers’ demands, said his father Ajay Chautala, whose party’s support base comprise mainly of farmers.
A group of top sportspersons and coaches from Punjab said they will return their awards and march to Delhi on December 5 in solidarity with the farmers. “They have been holding peaceful agitation for several months. But water cannons and teargas shells were used against them,” said Olympic hockey player and Arjuna awardee Sajjan Singh Cheema.
Thousands of farmers, who have braved water cannons, tear gas and police barricades, began their protest last week against the farm laws, aimed at doing away with middlemen and allowing them to sell produce anywhere in the country. Farmers say the laws will deprive them of the minimum prices fixed by the government and leave them at the mercy of corporates.