Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday (December 13) slammed the Centre for alluding to the presence of “separatist” elements in the farmers’ protest against the three farm bills.
“Ministers have described the protesters against the farm laws as Khalistanis; agents of Pakistan and China; Maoists; and, the latest, tukde tukde gang,” Chidambaram tweeted. “If you exhaust all these categories, it means there are no farmers among the thousands of protesters. If there are no farmers, why is the government talking to them?” he wrote in the next tweet.
The farmers are protesting against the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmer (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
Talks between agitating farmers and the government have ended in a stalemate. The farmers are demanding the repeal of the farm law, while the government has said it is open to making amendments.
Chidambaram has been a vocal critic of the farm laws and the way the Union government has been dealing with the protests. “The only ego I can see is the ego of the (Narendra) Modi government. My way or the highway. I have made this law, I have a majority, that’s it. Their inspiration is Donald Trump,” he had said in an interview to NDTV on December 8.
“This attitude of the government, I won’t consult anyone, I won’t consult the opposition… I will pass a law. If you force a vote, will ensure there is no vote in the house. There was no vote in the Rajya Sabha. This is known as Trumpism. Trumpism is the word that describes what the Modi government is doing.”
He has called the farm bills “anti-farmer” and not “pro-market” as it is being shown. “This is a Bill that paves the way for corporates, weakens the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) system. It takes away the sole safety net of farmers and sends a fear among farmers that eventually it will be an unregulated environment in which they will sell their produce, ” he had said.
On December 7, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Congress is opposing the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government for” the sake of opposition”. He accused it of “double standards”, saying the Congress is opposing the same laws it had mentioned in its 2019 manifesto.
Chidambaram refuted these claims as false, saying: “The Law Minister’s words are not the gospel truth. Read our manifesto. Our manifesto said marketing of agricultural produce must be reformed, there is no quarrel on that, but in a way farmers do not end up feeling cheated, deprived of the only safety net they have and leave them at the mercy of corporates.
He added: “What we proposed was to establish markets in large villages and small towns. Multiple markets, thousands of markets, and make them accessible to the farmer. But with light regulation — prices should be fixed at not less than the Minimum Support Price (MSP). Then the APMC becomes irrelevant over a period of time. These farm acts dilute, diminish and debilitate the sole safety net for farmers.
Chidambaram said it was a “wrong assumption” that farmers will have more markets to sell. “The government Bill gives an unregulated environment.”
Chidambaram has also criticised the BJP and the Uttar Pradesh government for the “love jihad” law.
Writing for The Indian Express, he said it would be “scary” if the “new normal for UP” may become the “new normal for India”. The UP ordinance against the so-called love jihad was promulgated on November 28.
“Within 11 days, five cases were registered. In one case, the girl’s family told the police that the two families had resolved the matter, the girl had married another boy and the family had not filed a complaint. Yet, an FIR was registered against the boy,” he said.
“In another case, following an FIR and a non-bailable warrant, the police threatened to attach the property of the boy’s family if he did not respond to the police’s summons. One can conclude that the most rampant crime in UP is two young people falling in love and marrying! Hence it is engaging the attention of the Chief Minister and the entire police force, more than the growing number of cases of murder, rape, assault or theft to which the people are apparently accustomed as ‘normal‘ in UP,” Chidambaram said.
(With inputs from agencies)