Opposition parties on Thursday observed a two-minute silence in the Rajya Sabha to pay tributes to 194 farmers who have died in the last few months in the farmers’ protest on Delhi borders.
Manoj K Jha (Rashtriya Janata Dal), who opened the debate, accused the government of holding a monologue instead of a dialogue. The Delhi border was more fortified than India’s international borders, he said. “With folded hands, I request you to please understand the pain of farmers. In harsh winter you stopped water supply and toilet facilities, dug trenches, put barbed wires, and installed spikes.”
Mr. Jha hit out at the government for its alleged aversion to dissent. “The greatest act of patriotism is to speak about the wellbeing of the nation, and that does not mean that I should stand in the orchestra party of the government forever and always,” he said.
Bihar ended minimum support price (MSP) based crop procurement in 2006 and it now had only contractual labourers and not farmers. “Bihar has been turned into a labour-supply State. You want a Bihar model in Punjab and Haryana,” he asked.
Deve Gowda’s plea
Former Prime Minister and JD(S) leader Deve Gowda appealed to the government to resolve the issue amicably. He said the government could not end the protest by punishing farmers.
In a nearly hour-long speech, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’ Brien alleged that the government had failed on all accounts. “In these times, we must be thankful for small freedoms like the freedom to speak without the mike being muted, like the freedom to speak without the video feed being censored, like the freedom to speak and express ourselves in this Council of States as per the rules without being dragged out by marshals,” he said.
The first account of government failure was in upholding the sanctity of Parliament, he said referring to September last year, when the three farm rules were passed in the Rajya Sabha amidst pandemonium.
“How, in our small way, can we bow our heads to these 194 farmers who passed away? Sometimes words are not enough. So, me and my colleagues will stand in silence in tribute to the farmers who lost their lives,” he said. The entire Opposition, following, stood up as a tribute to the farmers who lost their lives in the movement.
Congress MP Deepender Hooda, who represents Haryana, one of the States most affected by the farmers stir, hit out at the government for blocking the Internet. Restrictions could not stop the truth from coming out, he said.
Farmers were sitting in protest for two and a half months and they had not disturbed or harassed anyone. “They did not snatch even a peanut from a roadside vendor. Even at Red Fort, they did not vandalise any single shop. They have fed other residents too,” he said. His party condemneds the January 26 incident, he noted.
“The farmers did not want to sit at the border, they wanted to mark their protest at Ramlila Maidan. They were stopped,” he said, adding that the tractor rally at the Tikri and Singhu borders were 17 km and 21 km long respectively.
Sanjay Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party said, “Adani’s application to change land use of 100 acres was pending with Haryana government. It was cleared in May, and in June, the farm ordinances were signed”.
He asked if farmers were from an enemy country that Internet had been blocked. “On seven routes, farmers marched peacefully on January 26, those who stormed the Red Fort and disrespected the tiranga belong to the BJP. Deep Sidhu is a BJP man. They can stoop to any level for their politics…” he stated. Eleven rounds of talks with the government had failed, he pointed out.
“You will have to repeal the laws, you have crossed all limits. On the road, 12 inch nails have been studded as though enemy forces are coming. This happens when the ruler is afraid or he considers people as enemy. Rakesh Tikait was in tears. The government’s problem is not that farmers did not understand the Bills, their problem is that farmers have understood the Bills,” he said.