A day before the 11th round of talks with the Centre on farm laws, a majority of farmer unions rejected the government proposal for halting the laws’ implementation for up to a year and a half and insisting on their total revocation.
They said the offer was meant to divide the protesting farmers. “It is a tactic to derail the agitation. They are testing our patience. No repeal, no return to our homes,” said most union leaders.
“The demand for the repeal of the three Central laws and legislation for remunerative MSP was reiterated at the unions’ meeting, which will be communicated to the Union ministers today (January 22) at a meeting at Vigyan Bhavan,” said Joginder Singh Ugrahan of BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan).
The Centre had proposed a mutually acceptable time-frame for keeping the laws in abeyance besides setting up a joint committee to find a solution to end the stir.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of around 40 unions, made the announcement following a meeting at Singhu border on January 21. Sources said 17 of the total 32 unions of Punjab rejected the Centre’s offer, terming it as a “tactic to derail the agitation by dividing the farmers”.
“The Centre is testing the farmers’ patience. The unions unanimously rejected the Centre’s offer. We won’t return till the laws are abolished,” said Joginder Singh Ugrahan.
Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union, told The Federal that the SKM is bound by the majority decision. “Around 5 lakh farmers are sitting on the borders and they don’t want the farm bills on hold; they want a repeal of these laws. We didn’t take the decision in isolation and kept the farmers in the loop. The farmers straightaway rejected the suspension of the laws,” said Darshan Pal.
The farmers sitting on the Delhi border ran a hashtag on Twitter, saying “no repeal, no ghar wapsi” – meaning no compromise on repealing the laws.
Malkit Singh, a 60-year-old farmer from Jalandhar (Punjab) told The Federal the suspension of laws is not on the negotiating table. “The government proposal is a tactic to derail our protest. We are united and will not go home till the laws are repealed.”
Labh Singh, a member from Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Ugrahan, said if the farmers decided to return to their homes, the government would target the farmer leaders and unions. “We don’t trust this government,” he said.
The tough response of the farmers came on the eve of the 11th round of their talks with the Centre. Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson for the BKU, told The Federal that their demands remain the same — the government should repeal the farm laws, pass legislation on the MSP and implement the Swaminathan Committee report on making the farm sector lucrative for the farmers.
BJP leader RP Singh, meanwhile, condemned the farmer unions’ “adamant attitude,” saying it wasn’t good for democracy.
A few days back the unions had also rejected the Delhi Police’s proposal to shift their proposed Republic Day tractor rally from Delhi’s Outer Ring Road.