Centre rules out MSP law; talks with farmers may resume

Farmers, police clash at various points on Haryana-Punjab border; Delhi under tight security net; SKM urges Prime Minister Modi to intervene and stop using force against farmers

February 13, 2024 10:28 pm | Updated February 14, 2024 07:47 am IST - New Delhi:

Police personnel fire tear gas canisters at the protesting farmers at Shambhu Barrier in Punjab on February 13, 2024.

Police personnel fire tear gas canisters at the protesting farmers at Shambhu Barrier in Punjab on February 13, 2024. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

As the protests by farmers belonging to the Samyukt Kisan Morcha – Non-Political (SKM-NP), a splinter group of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM) escalated into a full-blown conflict with the security forces at various points on the Haryana-Punjab border on Tuesday, the Centre yet again made it clear that announcing a guaranteed minimum support price (MSP), the key demand of the farmers, will not be possible. The government, however, offered a third round of talks with the leaders of the groups.

Farmers protest | Updates

The Opposition jumped into the scene and the Congress said it would implement a guaranteed MSP if it came to power. Constituents of the original SKM, meanwhile, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and stop using force against the farmers and asked the SKM-NP to stop fighting separately and support the rural and industrial strike of February 16.

Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda and Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur asked the farmers to be vary of “disruptive elements” in their movement. Mr. Munda categorically told the media that on a law for guaranteed MSP, the Centre had to look at all sides of it. Mr. Thakur said protesters needed to understand that by continuously adding new issues to the discussion, a resolution could not be achieved immediately.

Farmers have been invited for yet another round of dialogue, which is likely to be held on Wednesday. The two rounds of discussions, led by Mr. Munda and Minister Piyush Goyal, had collapsed. “We are not averse to discussions. Will wait for the outcome of it and if it fails, farmers will breach the blockades and will start marching to Delhi,” said K.V. Biju, a senior leader of SKM-NP. He said more than 60 farmers were injured in the lathi charge and firing of rubber bullets and tear gas shells on them by the police.

Heavily barricaded

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the march, borders across the capital remained heavily barricaded and under a blanket of security. More than 100 barricades with barbed wires were set up between a seven km stretch on the Singhu border, in Kundli in Haryana. Teams of the Delhi Police and CAPF, RAPF were also deployed strategically at all points along with anti-riot gears. Some entry and exit gates of select Metro stations near important installations, including Parliament, have been shut as prohibitory orders remain in force. They were later opened by Tuesday night.

Heavy police deployment was also witnessed on Delhi’s borders with Uttar Pradesh. The Delhi-Noida direct flyaway, Ghazipur border and other prominent locations were under scrutiny. Movement for ambulances and other emergency vehicles was also made difficult despite the police’s attempts to ensure smooth traffic flow at these borders. Keeping security concerns, Archaeological Survey of India officials said the Red Fort complex had been shut down for visitors, especially considering the last time when many protesting farmers had entered the central part of Delhi on January 26 in 2021. Central Delhi was also littered with police forces.

Scuffle with police

Farmers had scuffle with the Haryana Police at various places along the Punjab border and the police resorted to the use of tear gas through drones and water cannons to disperse the agitators from Punjab. Farmers had come in hundreds of ‘tractor-trolley’ convoys by pushing and throwing away the multi-layer barricades. They were carrying essential supplies, including food, medicine, clothes etc.

Several of them tried to forcefully remove barricades and threw stones at the police personnel. Agitated farmers were also seen vandalising flyover safety barriers on the Shambhu border. According to police, 24 police personnel were injured in stone-pelting during the protest, who have been hospitalised. A senior police officer confirmed to The Hindu that a few protesters were detained, who were later released.  “No one is allowed to create nuisance, those doing so will be dealt with strictly. The situation is completely under control,” said Manisha Chaudhary, AIG, (Administration) and spokesperson for the Haryana Police.

KMM coordinator Sarwan Singh Pandher hit out at the Centre for attacking the farmers and farm labourers marching towards Delhi. Mr. Pandher said the farmers responded to the force by hurling stones. Jagjit Singh Dallewal, another farmer leader, said that around 60 young farmers were injured in the police action.

Urging Mr. Modi to intervene, the SKM said in a letter to him that the repression unleashed on farmers is condemnable and added that the Kisan Movement in India is united and single-minded and will resist any such act of authoritarianism and excessive use of state power. “As Prime Minister of India we urge you to take sympathy on the plight of farmers in the face of severe onslaught of the corporate intervention in agriculture actively supported by the union budgets and departmental actions,” the letter said.

In an appeal to SKM-NP, the original SKM said various Kisan organisations and platforms are fighting on the same and common demands. Hence, all the like-minded organisations should make an effort to build a common and united struggle on these issues. “As a first step we urge all of you to kindly extend support and participate actively in the call for industrial/ sectoral strike and Grameen Bandh on February 16 across India,” it said.

(With inputs from Vikas Vasudeva in Chandigarh)

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