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Farmers' protest | We will hold parallel tractor parade on Republic Day: farmer unions

The leaders of farmer unions along with Yogendra Yadav address a press conference in New Delhi on January 2, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Tens of thousands of protesting farmers will march into Delhi on Republic Day and hold their own parallel tractor parade if their demands are not met by then, Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) leaders said on Saturday.

 

After more than a month of camping at several points on the borders of Delhi, farmers groups issued an ultimatum to the Centre ahead of the next round of negotiations on Monday.

 

“If the government does not accede to our demands on January 4, we will hold a tractor rally on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal expressway on January 6. That will be our rehearsal for Republic Day,” said Darshan Pal, Punjab president for the Kisan Krantikari Union.

‘Will enter Delhi’

“They only have to issue in-principle statements that they will repeal the three laws, and promise a legal guarantee for MSP [or minimum support prices]. But if this is not done by January 26, we will surely enter Delhi peacefully, with our tractors, trolleys and farm vehicles, for our own kisan parade,” he said.

Also read: Farmers’ protest | Only oral assurances from government, say farmers

Similar parades would also be held in state capitals and district headquarters, he said.

 

In the run-up to Republic Day, there is a full slate of protests being planned. The festival of Lohri, on January 13, will be marked as Kisan Sankalp Diwas by burning the copies of the three laws that farmers want repealed. January 18 will be celebrated as Mahila Kisan Diwas to underline the role of women farmers. On Subhash Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary on January 23, farmers will protest at the Raj Bhawans in all State capitals.

 

“We have been peacefully protesting for so long. But this government has an ego problem. We have always told the government that it has only two options — to either repeal the three laws or use force on us to evict us,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, a Punjab farmer leader who heads his own faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union. “We intend to stay peaceful, we will not engage in any confrontation. But if the government chooses to use the police, that is their choice,” he added.

 

The movement has no current plans to request police permission for their planned parade in Delhi. “Are we farmers not citizens of the Republic? We have every right to celebrate Republic Day without needing any police permission,” said Mr. Pal.

 

The leaders are part of the seven-member coordination committee of the SKM, an umbrella platform for the diverse coalition of farmers groups gathered at the border. They were speaking to journalists at their first press conference in the capital since the protest began.

MSP demand is key

 

The Centre has maintained that its agricultural reform laws will bring free markets, private investment in post-harvest infrastructure, and increase farmers’ income. The protesting farmers say the reforms will dilute the system of government procurement of crops at MSP rates, and make small farmers vulnerable to exploitation by corporate majors.

 

With regard to MSP, Haryana farm leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said the government had failed to keep its own promises.

 

“Announcing MSP rates is one thing, but purchasing crops at MSP is another,” he said, using the example of maize farmers who are forced to sell their crops in the market at ₹800-1100 per quintal although the MSP rate is ₹1850 per quintal,” he pointed out.

 

“Like this, the government is looting farmers to the tune of ₹3-4 lakh crore every year by not ensuring that they sell their crops at the MSP rates it announces…[During the talks], when we asked if they were willing to buy all 23 crops of all farmers at MSP rates, they refused to commit to that. Then their MSP promise is a farce,” Mr Chaduni said.

 

Jagjit Singh Dallewal of BKU-Sidhupur slammed the BJP leaders who have slandered the farmers’ movement by alleging links to Khalistan terrorists and Maoists, and by claiming that the protest is restricted to Punjab and Haryana.

 

“The world can see that we are conducting our protest in a peaceful, non-violent manner, with support from across the country and the globe. But some people are intent on maligning us,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 7:15:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/we-will-hold-parallel-tractor-parade-on-republic-day-say-farmer-unions/article33479027.ece

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