Responding to a Home Ministry’s proposal, received on Tuesday morning, which urged the protesting farmers to call off their agitation as most of their pending demands have been resolved, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has sought clarifications on several points, including withdrawal of ‘fake’ cases against protestors.
After a discussion at the Singhu border, the farmers’ unions decided to reconvene at 2 p.m. on Wednesday to announce a final decision on ending their protest.
On the MHA proposal, the unions sought “clarifications” on several points from the government, especially with regard to “fake cases” filed against protestors and the composition and mandate of a committee to discuss minimum support prices (MSP).
While some farmers say they are ready to go home if the Centre adapts the language of its proposal to accede to their demands, U.P.’s tallest leader Rakesh Tikait of the BKU said the government must still sit across the table with farmer leaders and hold talks with the SKM.
Also read | Year on, farmers both happy and sad
The pending demand of a legal guarantee for MSP remains a major issue for Mr. Tikait’s supporters in Uttar Pradesh, as well as in other parts of the country where the existing MSP regime is not as strong as in Punjab and Haryana.
Tuesday’s Home Ministry proposal only says SKM’s leaders would be included in the Centre’s proposed committee to discuss MSP, among other issues.
“This leaves open the possibility that other so-called farmers groups, who supported the farm laws and the WTO [World Trade Organisation] regime against MSP, will also be part of the committee,” warned All India Kisan Sabha leader Ashok Dhawale, adding that the committee must have a specific mandate to discuss an MSP law.
Another major sticking point, especially among Punjab leaders, remains the Centre’s conditional offer to withdraw cases filed against protesters over the last year, including during a chaotic Republic Day tractor rally in the capital. The Home Ministry proposal said that once the agitation was withdrawn, the cases would also be withdrawn by the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, as well by the Centre which has police jurisdiction over the capital.
Also read | Farmers asked to name MSP panel members
“The protest can only end when the cases are withdrawn. This cannot come with any conditions,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, who heads his own faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union in Punjab,” adding that cases have also been filed in other parts of the country including Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
“During the protests following the Mandsaur police firing in 2017, the MP government had promised that cases would be withdrawn on the floor of the House. But these cases are still pending,” noted Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh leader Shivkumar Sharma ‘Kakkaji’, pointing out why the farmers are wary of the government’s conditional assurances.
Haryana leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni, who heads another BKU faction, said a time limit was needed on withdrawal of cases, adding that with regard to compensation to the kin of those who died during the protest, all States must agree to follow the Punjab model of ₹5 lakh. On this, the MHA statement only said that Haryana and U.P. governments have given in-principle consent for compensation.
With regard to the Electricity Bill, the Centre’s proposal simply said the views of all stakeholders will be taken before it is introduced in Parliament, while SKM leaders pointed out that Union Ministers had already promised that the draft Bill would be withdrawn during negotiations earlier in the year. On stubble burning, the proposal said farmers have already been exempted from criminal liability.
“In this way all the five demands have been properly resolved. Now there is no justification for continuing the farmers’ movement,” said the Ministry proposal.
The farmers’ sixth demand that Minister of State for Home Amit Mishra Teni be dismissed is not mentioned in the proposal, which is also another bone of contention especially among protesters from U.P.