Farmers’ protest | Yogendra Yadav’s exclusion reveals cracks in farmer coalition being exploited by Centre

Activist Yogendra Yadav. File   | Photo Credit: Sampath Kumar G.P.

Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav was not included in the farmers’ delegation for talks with the Centre on Tuesday, allegedly because the government did not want any political personalities to be included. However, some farmer leaders said his exclusion was actually at the behest of some Punjab unions. The controversy has brought to the fore some of the differences in the diverse coalition of protesting farmers.

Also read: Centre invites three more farmer leaders to join Punjab delegation for talks

Late on Monday night, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had issued an invitation for a meeting at Vigyan Bhavan at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, saying that those organisations who had been invited to the earlier talks on November 13 would be invited this time also. Only the Punjab unions had been invited last month.

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In fact, it is only the Punjab leaders who have been getting calls from senior bureaucrats and BJP politicians over the last few days as unofficial negotiations have been taking place by phone.

However, at a meeting at the Singhu border point on Tuesday morning, Punjab farmer unions decided to demand that the all-India leadership of the protest, under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, also be included in the talks.

The Morcha’s coordination committee is a seven member body, which now includes three Punjab leaders and Mr. Yadav, as well as Gurnam Singh Chadhuni of the Bharatiya Kisan Union in Haryana, Shivkumar Kakkaji Sharma of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, and Hannan Mollah of the All India Kisan Sabha. The Centre said it was willing to invite the rest, but not Mr. Yadav.

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“Amit Shah himself spoke to the Punjab leaders and said Yogendra Yadav could not be included as he heads a political party,” Mr. Yadav told The Hindu this afternoon, speaking from the Singhu border point while his colleagues sat at the Vigyan Bhavan. “The Punjab leaders pointed out that Mr Hannan Mollah is actually a former Member of Parliament from the Communist Party of India and that other Punjab leaders also have links to political parties. I am here representing the Jai Kisan Andolan. But the government would not agree,” he added.

According to Mr. Yadav, the Punjab leaders were ready to boycott the talks on the grounds of his exclusion, but as he felt the talks should not be stalled at this delicate stage and he told them he was willing to step aside.

However, some other farmers groups had a different version of the story. “The official explanation is that the government did not want Yogendra Yadav, but in reality, it is a section of Punjab unions who did not want him there,” said a leader, who did not want to be named.

Several leaders cited Mr. Yadav’s role in initially urging that the protesters shift from the border to the Burari grounds as a source of annoyance. They said there was also resentment about the fact that Mr. Yadav and several other national leaders have a high-profile media presence despite the fact that they have mobilised only a small fraction of the protestors.

Also read: Farmers in Karnataka protest in solidarity with Delhi counterparts

“There are some people saying that the AIKSCC [the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee] has only mobilised 5,000 odd people, so why are they getting more attention? Why should they have the same voice as the Punjab groups which have brought 30-35,000 people each?” said another leader, who also did not want to be named.

AIKSCC convenor V.M. Singh, who has urged Uttar Pradesh protestors to come to the ground in Burari against the wishes of the Punjab factions, has also come in for widespread criticism, and was booed by crowds at the border on Friday.

“Of course, there are always small differences in a coalition of this size. But you must recognise the sheer scale and diversity of this movement. It is unprecedented that so many different groups, from different areas with different constituencies, even different politics, have been willing to join hands and coordinate. It is a credit to the seriousness of the cause,” said AIKSCC leader Kavitha Kuruganti, who also represents a number of the south Indian movements which only have token representation on the ground in Delhi, but have been carrying out their own protests in their States.

She added that decision-making in the coalition is a complex affair, as it is being done by consensus, with three levels of consultation.

“On every issue, first the 30 Punjab unions meet and decide. Then there is the AIKSCC at the national level with a working group representing 300 plus groups including 10 of the Punjab unions. Then there is the Samyukt Kisan Morcha which is a coordination body between the Punjab groups, the AIKSCC, the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, BKU Chaduni, BKU Rajewal and others, ” Ms. Kuruganti said.

So far, the Centre has insisted on negotiating with the Punjab unions only, and has attempted to portray the protests as motivated by political interests only from that one State. Tuesday’s talks are the first round of the dialogue which has incorporated representatives from other States as well, and seems to be an implicit admission by the Centre that the opposition to the farm laws does have a more national nature.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 12:42:41 PM |

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