Opposition leaders lambast Centre for ‘aggressive approach’ to farm protest

They castigated the government for its complete lack of patience and unwillingness to listen to the farmers or to any criticism. BJP ministers believed only in monologue and not dialogue, they said, and asked the government to mend fences with the farmers and end the agitation

Rajya Sabha
Opposition leaders in Parliament castigated the government for its complete lack of patience on the farmers agitation issue and its unwillingness to listen to any criticism, which is immediately painted as anti-national. Photo: Screengrab

Opposition parties en masse lambasted the BJP government on Thursday (February 4) for its “aggressive approach” in handling the agitation of the farmers, who were the “backbone of the country”.

They castigated the government for its complete lack of patience and its unwillingness to listen to the farmers or to any criticism of any kind, which is immediately painted as “anti-national”.

BJP ministers believed in monologue and trenches have been dug, barbed wires put up and spikes installed when bridges should have been built to win over farmers,  Opposition party leaders said in Parliament, quoted media reports.

Sanjay Singh, Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member, made a heartfelt appeal to the Modi government to “have mercy and repeal the three black laws”. Pointing out that 165 farmers have lost their lives in the past 76 days, he said that talks, which were held 11 times have all failed.

Also read: Oppn MPs’ delegation stopped from reaching Ghazipur to meet farmers

“Government claims to be a call away, but it doesn’t bother,” he said in the Upper House, hitting out at the central government for lathi-charging farmers and calling them traitors, terrorists and Khalistanis.

Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien too was unsparing in his words, when he accused the central government of failing India at many levels. The Centre has “failed to uphold Parliament’s sanctity because of its arrogance,” he said.

Former prime minister and JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda blamed miscreants and anti-social elements and not the farmers for the events on Republic Day. Stating that the farmers are not responsible for the violence, he said they should not be punished.

He condemned the Centre’s decision to erect concrete walls at the protest sites and asked the government to end the matter peacefully. Gowda, too, drove home the point that since farm laws is a state subject, the state governments’ view should be considered as well.

However, it was Manoj Kumar Jha, an MP and Rashtriya Janata Dal spokesperson, who tore into the government during the second day of discussion on a motion thanking the President for his address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of the Budget session.

His speech was replete with poetry and sarcasm, as he pleaded with the government with “folded hands” to understand the pain of the farmers. The government has lost the patience to hear and any criticism is painted as anti-national, he said.

Jha highlighted the fact that in the midst of a harsh winter, the government has stopped basic facilities such as water supply and toilet facilities, dug trenches, erected barbed wires, and installed spikes. “Such aggressive approach wasn’t even heard of towards the neighbouring nations who came inside (the Indian territory),” he added.

Also read: US welcomes farm laws, but says peaceful protests a sign of democracy

“Who are you fighting? They are your own farmers,” he said stridently. “The country is not made up of police, arm, Jan gan man and Vande Mataram. The country is made of relations and you have soiled those relations.”

He attacked the government for losing patience and not listening to the farmers but only dictating. “Governments are formed to build bridges but you have built walls,” he added, echoing the lines of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

Jha added that the farmer is the backbone of the country. The 303 (seats won by the BJP in the last general elections) was not won from cold storage or godowns but from these very people, Jha said. He was allegedly making a veiled reference to the cold storage chain and godowns built by private corporates such as Adani Group, The Indian Express reported.

There is no place for the language of charity in a democracy, he said, referring to the government’s claim of having given this and that to farmers. “The monologues should be ended,” he said in Parliament.

Jha also noted that the protesting farmers and critics have been painted as ‘Khalistanis’, ‘Naxals’ and ‘Pakistani agents’ and its citizens pitted against each other just like the agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Meanwhile, Congress leader, Digvijaya Singh did not miss the opportunity to bring the spotlight back on BJP and attack it for demonetisation and the Citizenship Amendment Act. Referring to the three farm laws as “anti-farmer”, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had lost the trust of the farmers.

The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, too, was opposed to some of the government’s moves, he pointed out, and asked Modi if he wanted to keep relations with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)?

Dissent is the essence of democracy, said Singh, adding that if people’s sentiments are seen as revolution in a democracy, then it is autocracy.