The talks on Tuesday (December 8) between Union home minister Amit Shah and farmers protesting against the new farm laws failed to make any progress, with leaders representing the agitators saying that while the government proposed to make amendments, they want a complete repeal. They said they will not take part in the sixth round of talks with the Centre proposed to take place on Wednesday (December 9).
The meeting, held on a day the farmers had observed a Bharat bandh that evoked mixed response across the nation, was held at the National Agricultural Science Complex in Pusa, and was attended by leaders of 13 farmers’ union, including Hannan Mollah of the All India Kisan Sabha and Rakesh Tikait of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and it went on for well over three hours.
Mollah said the home minister told them that the government would give to them in writing its proposals. “Home minister Amit Shah said a proposal will be given to tomorrow (Wednesday). The farmer leaders will meet to discuss the proposal,” he said, adding the government is not willing to repeal the laws.
The farmer leaders will consider the government’s proposals on Wednesday and decided whether the talks with the government should continue.
“The government will send its proposal by tomorrow (Wednesday). Then we will discuss it, and decide whether there is need of another meeting,” Haryana BKU chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni told The Indian Express.
The farmers’ leaders, however, have made it clear that they want nothing but complete repeal of the laws. Amit Shah has said the government will propose the amendments to the laws on Wednesday, but “we don’t want amendments, we want the laws to be abolished”, Mollah said.
Meanwhile, the nationwide strike of the farmers evoked mixed response and it was by and large peaceful although normal life was affected in some parts of the country with shops closed and protestors blocking roads and highways.
Emergency services were exempted and banks, too, continued operations as the pan-India shutdown, backed by most opposition parties and trade unions, rolled out noisily but peacefully with its impact felt in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, the epicentre of the snowballing protests, as well as in states such as Odisha, Maharashtra and Bihar.
In several parts of the country, including in BJP-ruled Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, life continued unimpeded. In other places, the pandemic appeared to recede into the background.
Security was stepped up, restive crowds demonstrated in some places and the numbers swelled at Delhis border points. Protesters also blocked railway tracks in places in West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. As slogans such as ‘Kisan Ekta Zindabad’ were heard in protest centrepoints such as Tikri and the agitation picked up pace, the hashtag #Aaj_Bharat_Bandh_Hai was trending worldwide on Twitter till late afternoon.
From the Rajasthan capital Jaipur, where mandis were closed but shops open, there were reports of clashes between workers of the states ruling Congress and the BJP. In Delhi, where most main markets were open, tension spiralled with the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleging that the Delhi police had put Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal under house arrest.
The city police denied the claim but the party stuck to its guns and said the move was a response to Kejriwal meeting protesting farmers at the Singhu border. “If I was not stopped, I would have gone and supported the protesting farmers in their Bharat Bandh movement. I am glad that Bharat Bandh was a success,” Kejriwal said.
All India Lawyers’ Union protested at Tis Hazari District Court in support of the farmers. “The government’s response to protest is a matter of concern. Legal fraternity stands with farmers. These laws are neither in favour of farmers nor of lawyers,” said Tiz Hazari Bar association president.
Former Haryana Chief Minister and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda said, “I agree that some reforms are needed. But these Acts which have been passed, have no reflection of these reforms. They should call a Parliamentary session and discuss these exact reforms.”
Shopkeepers in Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar market tied black ribbons around their arms to show solidarity with farmers’ protests. “Why can’t the govt grant a simple demand of the MSP,” said one shopkeeper.
Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, 83, sat on a day-long fast in solidarity farmers’ Bharat Bandh call against the three farm laws. “I appeal to the citizens of this country that the farmers’ agitation at Delhi borders should spread across the country. The government needs to be pressured and for that to happen, farmers need to hit the streets. But no one should resort to violence,” said Hazare.
The Mumbai Dabbawala Association also extended its support for the Bharat Bandh.
The government called the opposition parties supporting the agitation as “hypocritical”. Union minister Prakash Javadekar said, “The opposition parties asking to roll back of the three farm laws is hypocritical as they had passed the contract farming act while in power. The Congress has mentioned the introduction of these laws in their manifesto.”
The Delhi police on Tuesday tightened security at all border points and made arrangements to maintain law and order across the city, including market places, in view of the Bharat Bandh called by farmer unions against the Centre’s new farm laws, officials said.
“The security across the national capital, especially in bordering areas, was beefed up,” a senior police officer said. Police personnel deployment in the capital was maximum to ensure normal movement of people on the roads.
Transport industry incurs ₹2,000 crore loss: AIMTC
The transport industry incurred a loss of ₹2,000 crore on account of halting operations due to Bharat Bandh, transporters’ apex body All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), which represents about 95 lakh truckers and other entities, said.
“The transport fraternity support to farmers has been highly successful…About 90 lakh trucks, tempo, trailers stood still on the call of AIMTC and the transport industry too bore losses of about ₹2,000 crore,” AIMTC President Kultarn Singh Atwal said.
AIMTC in a statement said it will continue to extend support to farmers. “The support by the transport fraternity to the Bharat Bandh call by farmers is successful, peaceful and voluntary,” AIMTC Secretary General Naveen Gupta said.
Kerala to move SC
The Kerala government said it will move the Supreme Court against the three contentious farm laws this week itself. “We will not implement the farm laws. The state government is ready to face any action to be taken by the Centre. We will move the Supreme Court against these laws this week itself,” Kerala Agriculture Minister VS Sunilkumar said.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna members stopped the Chennai-Ahmedabad Navjeevan Express at Malkapur station in Buldhana district while protesting against the farm laws.
Police detained Sanghatana leader Ravikant Tupkar and his supporters over the incident, after removing them from the rail tracks, an official said.
Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in Navi Mumbai, Nashik, Dhule, Pune and Solapur are closed during the bandh.
In Ahmedabad, protesters blocked three highways in rural Gujarat by placing burning tyres on roads on Tuesday morning.
A highway connecting Ahmedabad to Viramgam was blocked near Sanand by protesters from the Congress party who placed burning tyres on roads, causing a traffic jam.
Another group of protesters blocked a national highway in Vadodara. In another incident, a highway connecting Bharuch and Dahej in Bharuch district was similarly blocked near Nandelav by protesters. Police detained protesters in Ahmedabad and brought the situation under control, an official said.
Elsewhere in the country, members of Left parties in West Bengal raised slogans against farm laws and burnt effigies in Jadavpur area of Kolkata
Karnataka Congress leaders Siddaramaiah, BK Hariprasad, Ramalinga Reddy and others protested in support of Bharat Bandh called by farmers’ unions. The Karnataka chapter of the All-India Kisan Sangharsh Co-ordination Committee (AIKSCC), a coalition of several farmer organisations, had called for a six-hour bandh on Tuesday.