Hours after they rejected Home Minister Amit Shah’s proposal for a discussion, farmers agitating at the borders of Delhi on Sunday (November 29) said they will block the national capital from five entry points, while putting forth four demands for the government to fulfil.
Addressing a press conference at Singhu border, the representatives of farmers’ outfits said the government should repeal the three farm bills, guarantee Minimum Support Price, stop the electricity ordinance and do away with the fine on stubble burning.
Calling Shah’s invitation to protest at Burari a trap, Surjeet S Phul, the state president of Bharatiya Kisan Union Krantikari said the protesters now plan to block Delhi from five entry points.
“We will never go to Burari Park. We came to know that it is not a park, but an open jail. We learnt that farmers from Uttarakhand had reached Delhi and wanted to head towards Jantar Mantar. But police waylaid them to Burari and have confined them there,” he said.
“Instead of going to open jail in Burari, we’ve decided that we will gherao Delhi by blocking five main entry points to Delhi. We’ve got four months’ ration with us, so nothing to worry. Our Operations Committee will decide everything,” he added.
Clarifying that the agitating farmers will not allow any political entities to protest with them, Phul said committees have been formed to thwart any infiltration by separatist and fringe elements.
“We’ve decided that we won’t allow any political party leader to speak on our stage, be it Congress, BJP, AAP or other parties. Our Committee will allow other organisations, who are supporting us, to speak if they follow our rules,” Phul said.
The farmers held a meeting at Singhu on Delhi-Haryana border in the morning to deliberate on Shah’s appeal to shift to Burari ground in Delhi following his assurance that the Centre would hold talks with them as soon as they move to the earmarked protest site.
However, the joint forum of 30 farmer unions unanimously rejected the offer of early talks, resulting in status quo over the deadlock. According to Jagjit Singh Dalewal, president of Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Sidhupur faction, the farmers are not ready to accept the Centre’s condition of shifting to the Burari ground for protesting, instead of Jantar Mantar.
#WATCH | If farmers' unions want to hold discussions before December 3 then, I want to assure you all that as soon as you shift your protest to structured place, the government will hold talks to address your concerns the very next day: Union Home Minister Amit Shah pic.twitter.com/ZTKXtHZH3W
— ANI (@ANI) November 28, 2020
In a video message on Saturday, Shah had said the government is ready to deliberate on every demand of the farmers. He said that the farmers’ unions have been called for talks on December 3 and if they want to hold discussions before that, the protesters must shift to the Burari ground.
Responding to the home minister’s assurance, the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Punjab president Jagjit Singh, who’s camping at Singhu on the Delhi-Haryana, border had said last night, “Amit Shah ji has called for early meeting on a condition; it’s not good. He should’ve offered talks with open heart without condition. We’ll hold meeting tomorrow morning to decide our response.”
At the Singhu border, farmers had decided on Saturday they’ll continue their protest there and won’t go anywhere else. It was also decided that they’ll meet at 11 am daily to discuss strategy, according to reports.
Meanwhile, at the Ghaziabad-Delhi border, Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said: “Protests happen at Ramlila ground, then why should we go to Nirankari Bhawan, a private facility? We will stay put here today.”
Amit Shah’s assurance came after the farmers refused the Delhi Police to shift to the Burari ground with a section of them insisting on being allowed to hold protest at Jantar Mantar, a popular protest site. Thousands of them are camping at Singhu and Tikri borders between the two state waiting for thousands more to join them for the demonstration.
Appealing to the farmers to the designated protest site, Shah said that the government has made arrangements for water, toilets and medical care at the ground in north Delhi so that the farmers are not inconvenienced and can stage their demonstrations in a democratic and peaceful manner there.
“For the last few days, farmers from Punjab and Haryana and some other parts of the country have come to the border of Delhi. Farmers have gathered on the two major highways coming from Punjab near the border of Delhi since yesterday. Farmers are facing many problems due to heavy cold. Other people are also facing problems,” Shah said.
“Therefore, I have a humble appeal to our farmer brothers that the government has made proper arrangement for you in Burari in Delhi, where you can stage your demonstrations,” he said in an appeal in Hindi which was posted in the official WhatsApp group of the home ministry.
Shah said a delegation of the farmers has been invited on December 3, on behalf of the Centre to discuss about detailed talks on their problems. “Some farmers unions and farmers have demanded that talks be held immediately instead of December 3. So, I assure everyone that the Centre is ready to hold discussions with you as soon as you shift to the ground (in Burari),” he said.
The farmers are protesting against the Centre’s new farm laws and have resorted to a ‘Delhi Chalo’ march to have their voices heard. They have expressed apprehension that the three new laws will pave a way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates.
(With inputs from agencies)