Opposition parties, trade and bank unions, and activists from across India have backed the December 8 “Bharat bandh” called by farmers’ unions against the Centre’s new farm laws. Meanwhile, the farmers’ protest at Delhi’s borders entered its 11th day on Sunday.
“It will be an emphatic ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8,” Prem Singh Bhangu, president, All India Kisan Federation, said on Saturday (December 5) evening after the fifth round of their talks with Union ministers reached an impasse. During the meeting, it is understood that the Centre refused to repeal the laws but were open to amend them. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar also requested the farmers to send the elderly, women, and children back home.
“The ‘Bharat Bandh’ will also see farmers blocking national highways and occupying toll plazas,” said Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Harwinder Singh Lakhwal.
The Left parties, comprising the Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI(M), CPI(M-L), Revolutionary Socialist Party, and All India Forward Bloc, said in a statement, “The Left parties extend their solidarity with and support to the ongoing massive agitation by kisan organisations from all over the country against the new agri laws. The Left parties extend their support to the call given by them for a ‘Bharat bandh’ on December 8.”
The call for the bandh has also been supported by trade unions: the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), and the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS).
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera told the press at Delhi’s AICC headquarters: “I would also like to announce that the Congress party extends its whole-hearted support to the Bharat Bandh on December 8.”
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and tweeted: “Pick your pen, apologise to ‘anndata (farmers)’ and annul the black laws immediately.”
NCP chief Sharad Pawar told the media that the government should take the farmer’s stir seriously since they are protesting on the streets. He added that the protests will not be restricted to Delhi but might snowball to include the whole country.
“When Bill was being passed, we’d requested govt that they shouldn’t be in a hurry, it should be sent to Select Committee & a discussion is needed, but that didn’t happen and the Bill was passed in haste. Now govt is facing problems because of that haste (sic),” the former agriculture Minister said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a tweet, “The Aam Aadmi Party fully supports the ‘Bharat Bandh’ call. There is an appeal to all countrymen that everyone should support the farmers and participate in it.”
Bengal’s Trinamool Congress has said they will protest by holding sit-ins in the state.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav held a protest against the farm laws in front of Mahatma Gandhi statue at the Gandhi Maidan in Patna. He said, “I am standing with the anndata (providers of food) in their fight against the dhandata (people who own wealth).”
In Tamil Nadu, DMK chief MK Stalin has criticised the Centre for hurriedly passing the bills and extended support for the bandh. Actor-politician Kamal Haasan has sent a 10-member team from his Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) to Delhi to express solidarity with the farmers.
Even UP’s Samajwadi Party and Telangana’s TRS came out in support of the farmers. “We’d opposed the bills in Parliament, we continue to do so. MSP hasn’t been assured in any of these bills. If mandi structure is dismantled there’s no alternative structure in this country, so farmer is insecure. TRS will support the farmer’ bandh call,” said K Kavitha, TRS MLC.
Meanwhile, activists from the Bharatiya Kisan Union held protests in Haryana and burned effigies of the central government. Bank unions, including All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC), All India Bank Officers’ Association (AIBOA), and Indian National Bank Officers’ Congress (INBOC), have requested the Centre to conduct dialogues with the farmers to resolve the issue by referring the bills to a Select Committee by a special Presidential Order.
Farmers and the Centre are scheduled to meet for a sixth round of talks on Wednesday (December 9).
(With inputs from agencies)