Farmers’ protests | Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader hints at nuanced stand on demands

Darshan Pal .  

As the farmers protest completed 100 days on the borders of Delhi, senior Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader Darshan Pal said the movement “should not be taking a hard stance on all the issues”. There needs to be “space for discussion” even on the demand to repeal three contentious farm reform laws, he said.

However, in an interview with The Hindu on Friday, the veteran Punjab leader added that with expectations having been raised among the people, it would now be difficult for union leaders to back down from their initial positions.

For five hours on Saturday, SKM protestors will mark the 100th day of their agitation on the doorsteps of the capital by blockading the Western Peripheral Expressway which surrounds the city and connects the three major protest sites at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur. Apart from the repeal of the three laws, they are also demanding a legal guarantee of minimum support prices for their crops.

Reflecting on the lessons learnt from the last 100 days which can be applied to the future of the movement, Dr. Pal indicated that there should have been more clarity regarding realistic expectations.

“I think we should not be taking a hard stance on all the issues. For example, on the issue of MSP, what I think is that we did not discuss it in our movement so intensively or in so much detail. We should try to get all these things about our issues in detail, so that the leadership level and everybody tries to understand what we are demanding and how much we can get it,” he said.

“As the movement is becoming prolonged and prolonged, such questions arise in the minds of people, such as whether MSP can be achieved in a single stroke, or if it can be taken as granted in-principle and details can be discussed and can be asked by the government later on by forming a committee or something like that,” he added.

The Centre has been encouraging such a solution, pointing out that it has given written assurances that MSP will stay, and pushing for a committee to be formed to discuss further details. Farm unions have rejected this suggestion.

Asked whether there was space for such nuance regarding the demand for repealing the three laws as well, Dr. Pal said, “There will be and there should be some space for discussion.” However, he added that he was “not yet in a position to say” what options could be considered.

He said some could be willing to accept something less than the original demands, but admitted that it would be difficult to sell it to their supporters at this stage. “Because we have raised the expectations. Already, people of Punjab, almost 100% are saying that the government should repeal these laws. Only then, we can have some compromise,” he said, noting that none of the leaders who reached Delhi’s borders in November seriously expected to still be here in March.

Dr. Pal, who heads the Krantikari Kisan Union, has become de facto spokesperson for the SKM, with press statements and letters to the government being issued in his name. However, he emphasised that decisions on the movement's plan of action are taken by consensus, with regular discussions among the diverse leaders of the coalition.

One of the biggest achievements of the movement has been to forge unity among organisations with extreme differences in geography, ideology, class, land ownership, and expectations, as well as personal grievances between some leaders, said Dr. Pal. “It is the urgency of the issue, that is, the three farm laws, which brought us together and holds us together,” he said.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 4:21:26 AM |

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