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Farm leaders urge non-political support for Bharat bandh

All ears: Farmers being addressed by various leadres ahead of the Bharat Bandh in New Delhi on December 7, 2020.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

On the eve of the Bharat bandh, farmer leaders tried to find a balance between highlighting Opposition endorsement of the nationwide strike call as a sign of the widening support for their movement, and refuting the government’s accusation that the protests have now been hijacked by vested political interests.

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“We want to thank political parties for their support, but we appeal to them to leave their own flags and banners at home, and stand solely in support of farmers,” said Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal, during a press conference called by Punjab’s farmer leaders at the Singhu border on Monday.

So far, 24 political parties have come out in support of the bandh, according to farmers’ groups. The list includes the Congress and Left parties, and regional outfits such as the DMK, TRS, SP, BSP, RJD, Shiv Sena, NCP, SAD, TMC, AIMIM, AAP, JMM and the Gupkar Alliance.

Additional security

Ahead of the nationwide bandh, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday issued an advisory to all States and Union Territories that no untoward incident should occur during Tuesday’s strike. The advisory asked them to maintain peace and tranquility and ensure that all COVID-19 guidelines are strictly followed.

An MHA official said additional security personnel have been deployed across the national capital.

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“The advisory has asked the States to ensure that no violence or untoward incident takes place during the Bharat bandh. Emphasis has been laid on implementation of all COVID-19 protocol such as social distancing and mandatory use of masks,” the official stated.

The farm union leaders have said the strike will be effective from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. but no kind of essential or emergency services will be disrupted.

Also read: BJP terms Opposition stance on farmers’ protest ‘double standards’

‘Not hijacked’

Mr. Pal dismissed the Centre’s accusations of party politics overtaking the farmers’ agenda.

“Even Kejriwal saab came this morning, but we did not give him our stage. We have been here from November 27. You cannot give even one example of the farmers taking funds from political parties, or allowing them to speak from our stage. We are very firm on it,” he said.

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Taking on the government, he said, “The BJP may have its own narrative. But they must answer why we have support from such a wide section of society.”

Balbir Singh Rajewal, who heads his own faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, pointed out that support had come from farmers, workers and traders associations, and the All India Railwaymen’s Federation, as well as from the Bar Association of the Supreme Court and retired IAS Officers Associations.

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“The world has seen our struggle. In Canada, America, Germany, England, Australia, there are Punjabis and Indians who are holding large protests,” he added, reiterating that the agitation would not stop until the three contentious farm reform laws were repealed.

‘Govt. must respond’

“When political parties respond to a widespread demand from citizens, it should not be seen as the opposition versus the government. Every party, including the one in government, should be responding, and taking cues from citizens. That is how democracy works,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, speaking after the press conference.

Also read: Farmer outfits in Maharashtra to protest in solidarity

She noted that many of these parties, including regional parties like the Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) had already opposed elements of the three Acts during the lawmaking process in Parliament.

“No one can hijack the movement as lakhs of farmers are on the ground. But political party support is natural, and should not be seen as or made into a double-edged sword,” she added.

Tuesday’s bandh includes plans for a chakka jaam, or road blockade, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Supplies of milk and vegetables will also be stopped during this period, although emergency services will not be affected, said farm leaders, appealing for peaceful protests.

“We do not want any confrontation or fights. There is no need to force anyone to observe the bandh. But many different groups are coming to join us voluntarily,” said Jagjeet Singh Dallewal, who heads another faction of the BKU in Punjab.

Five rounds of talks had taken place between farmers and the Central government led by Agriculture Minister N.S Tomar. Another round of meeting is proposed on December 9.

(With inputs from Vijaita Singh)

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 10:32:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/farm-leaders-urge-non-political-support-for-bharat-bandh/article33273510.ece

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