Farmers debate farm laws at parallel Kisan Sansad outside Parliament

Farmers protest against agriculture laws during their Kisan Sansad at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on July 22, 2021.   | Photo Credit: SANDEEP SAXENA

Outnumbered by both police and mediapersons, a small group of 200 farmers reached Parliament Street on Thursday to begin their Kisan Sansad protest, running parallel to the proceedings at Sansad Bhawan barely a kilometre away.

“We are showing them how to conduct a Parliament with knowledgeable discussions. The government says the farmers are uneducated, they say they need to educate the farmers about the impact of these three farm laws. Listen to the debates here. Is it not clear that the farmers have understood how their lives and livelihoods will be hurt by these laws?” said All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah.

A number of speakers laid out their charges against the three laws, that they were unconstitutional, that they were enacted using undemocratic practices, and that they will devastate the rural economy.

“These laws will lead to the end of the existing mandi system and MSP procurement. It will result in farmers, agricultural labourers and mandi workers being deprived of their jobs. And when the private mandis come, replacing the government mandis, their infrastructure will only benefit Ambani and Adani, not farmers,” said Jasbir Kaur, committee member of Punjab Kisan Union, speaking during the first hour of the Sansad. She was one of only seven women among the protestors on Thursday.

“If the fields and crops of this country go into the hands of corporates, if they take control of our harvests and our grain, then it is the people who will go hungry and face starvation. That is why this is the protest not just of farmers, but of the people. This is a jan sansad,” said Raminder Singh Patiala, a leader of the Kirti Kisan Union. Half of the protestors were from Punjab, where the agitation has been strongest, with the other half hailing from other States.

“These laws are actually dead already, but we still need the government to issue the death certificate,” said Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav, referring to the fact that the Supreme Court suspended implementation of the laws six months ago. He warned Opposition MPs, who have been issued a “voters whip” by the farmers that if they fail to take up the issue continuously in Parliament, they will face the same farmers’ boycott as BJP MPs.

Even as the Parliament session was ongoing, more than 20 MPs from Kerala arrived at the Kisan Sansad to express their solidarity, but were not allowed on the farmers’ stage.

Regarding the Pegasus issue that has consumed much of Parliament’s time so far, several farm leaders worried they may also be targets of surveillance. “We suspect that our numbers are also on the list of those being snooped on. The government is behind the snooping. That is clear, and the issue is gaining traction. We know that they are keeping an eye on us too,” Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh president Shiv Kumar 'Kakkaji' Sharma told journalists.

He noted that the police presence on the blockaded stretch of Parliament Street may be larger than within Parliament itself. “Where is the need for this kind of security? For just 200 farmers, there are 50 companies of police. When we were leaving at the Singhu border, there was one jawan for every 20 feet. There were three police checks along the way. What are they afraid of?” he said.

Rakesh Tikait, who heads a large faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union in western Uttar Pradesh told journalists that the arrival of farmers at Jantar Mantar was a sign of progress. “The distance between us and the parliament is constantly reducing, we are just a few hundred metres away now,” he said.

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 6:39:45 PM |

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