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Farmers complete 7 months of protest, allege ‘undeclared emergency’

Yudhvir Singh, general secretary, BKU Tikait and others were picked up by police at Civil Lines in Delhi and have been taken to Wazirabad Police Training Centre, according to SKM, on June 26, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Thousands of farmers marking the seven-month anniversary of their agitation against three agricultural reform laws marched to Raj Bhavans on Saturday. They submitted a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind through the Governors, alleging an ‘undeclared emergency’ in the country.

As June 26 is also the date the Emergency was declared in 1975, the farm unions under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) observed the day as Kheti Bachao, Loktantra Bachao Diwas (Save Agriculture, Save Democracy Day).

Protesters detained

Farmers successfully delivered the memorandum to Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and his Himachal Pradesh counterpart Bandaru Dattatreya, and to designated officials at the Raj Bhavans in Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. In Delhi, though protesters were originally detained at Civil Lines and held at the Wazirabad Police Training Centre, they were later able to hold a brief virtual meeting with the Lt. Governor and hand over the memorandum to a representative.

The SKM said protesters had been detained at their assembly points in Bhopal, Bengaluru, Dehradun and Hyderabad, and prevented from heading towards the Raj Bhavans. In Chandigarh, they faced water cannons. “Where was the need to stop the protesters, when the administration knew about the plans announced by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha many days ago? It was only a matter of handing over a memorandum to the Governor and not allowing even this much is a reflection of the undeclared emergency and authoritarian times we are going through,” said an SKM statement.

Rallies were also held in Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, as well as at the large border protest sites around the national capital, according to the SKM.

In their memorandum, the farm unions urged the President to direct the Union government to “repeal the three anti-farmer laws and to enact a law that will guarantee remunerative MSP at C2+50% for all farmers”. Recounting the government’s suppression of their agitation, the farmers claimed that what they experienced was a reminder of the Emergency period 46 years ago. “Without declaring an Emergency, democracy is being throttled every day,” said the memorandum.

Tomar reiterates appeal

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar reiterated his appeal to farmers to “end their agitation.” Posting a video statement on Twitter, he said the Centre was also “ready to discuss and to resolve any provision of the laws” which the farmers were protesting against. However, the farmers are insistent on demanding a full repeal, “as there are fundamental flaws in the laws and their very objectives”.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted his support for the protesters. “It’s simple. We are with the Satyagrahi Annadata,” he said.

Hundreds of thousands of farmers marched to the borders of Delhi on November 26, 2020 to demand the repeal of the the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. While the Centre says the laws will provide more choice to farmers marketing their produce and bring private investment into the agricultural sector, the protesting farmers fear that the reforms will prevent them from receiving remunerative produce and will leave small farmers at the mercy of large corporates.

Eleven rounds of negotiations failed to break the impasse, and talks broke down on January 22, just days before a tractor parade in the capital on Republic Day ended in chaos and clashed with police. The Supreme Court has suspended implementation of the laws, and appointed a panel to discuss them with stakeholders. The panel’s report was submitted over three months ago.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 6:23:45 PM |

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