The farmers of Karnataka have planned to take out a rally in Bengaluru along the lines of the tractor march planned by their protesting brethren at the borders of Delhi, on Republic Day.
The protest call comes in the backdrop of farmers from the southern state extending their support to the agitating farmers in Delhi who are demanding a repeal of the three farm laws passed by the Centre.
Even though the police chief has denied permission for the tractor rally in Karnataka, farmers’ leaders say the march will take place with alternate arrangements.
“They (police) have a problem only with tractors. So we are making arrangements to bring people in cars and jeeps and still hold a parade. There, however, will be fewer tractors than expected with police denying permissions,” Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader Kodihalli Chandrashekar said.
“We are not doing any illegal activity. We live in a democracy and we have every right to protest and express our opinion,” he added.
City police chief Kamal Pant who held a meeting with various stakeholders early in the day, said the department has refused to allow farmers to hold the tractor rally due to security issues and law and order concerns, despite assurance by farmer groups to keep the protest non-violent.
Superintendents of Police at the district level have been instructed not to allow tractors to enter city borders from Monday evening onwards.
Chandrashekar estimates around 2,000 tractors have already arrived in the city (as of January 25) from across the state and it will only increase on Republic Day. He expects around 5,000 vehicles and nearly 20,000 farmers from neighbouring districts to participate in the protest.
Questioning the police’s stance, Chandrashekar asks why the state police cannot give permission for a tractor rally in Karnataka when the same has been given to the farmers in Delhi.
While the initial plan of the farmers was to gather at Bengaluru’s Freedom Park, with police denying permission, they will now protest on national and state highways leading to the city from four sides – Mysore road, Tumakuru and Devanahalli road (leading towards Bengaluru Airport), Old-Madras road (Hosakote), and Hosur road (Electronic City).
State Congress’ farmer cell chief Sachin Meega said the protest called for by farmers’ associations will have their support and they have instructed their party workers and farmer wing from neighbouring districts like Kolar, Bangalore Rural, Mandya, Ramanagara Tumakuru, and Chikkaballapura to gather at the junctions leading to the state capital.
Aikya Horata, a collective of farmers, workers, and Dalit organisations has also extended support to the farmers’ protest.
Even as the farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been camping at the borders of the national capital, demanding a repeal of the three farm laws and the introduction of a new legislation on Minimum Support Price (MSP), in Karnataka farmers groups have been holding sporadic protests since September after the state government passed similar agriculture-related amendments.
Farmers’ union Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), was of the opinion that all the three laws amended in 2020 — Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act — are a death knell for farmers across the country.
The organisation also wants the state government to take a relook at the three laws amended in 2020–Karnataka Land Reforms Act, Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (regulation and development) ordinance, and the Karnataka Industrial Act.
“The governments which are in the clutches of capitalists such as Ambani and Adani bombarded farmers with destructive laws when the latter were helpless with the pandemic. The state government and central government brought these laws by throwing to the winds the basic objective of the constitution, and democracy,” said a statement issued by Aikya Horata.