Before representatives of farmers’ unions met with the Centre on Tuesday afternoon, the day saw a push and pull over who would represent protesting farmers at the meeting.
The government had announced late Monday evening that it had invited representatives of farmer unions for a meeting on Tuesday, and different organisations leading the protests held a meeting earlier in the morning to decide on whether to accept the decision. In the meeting, the unions are learnt to have raised concerns over the invitation being extended to only representatives from Punjab, with several leaders saying they did not want their protest to be portrayed as an issue concerning a single state.
“The Centre wants to make this movement seem as if it’s only that of one state and one community. It is a movement of farmers across the country. In the meeting, it was discussed that it is important to have representation from across the country,” said Jagdeep Singh Aulakh, member, Haryana state committee of Bharatiya Kisan Union.
And so, members of the different organisations proposed four names for the delegation in addition to the 32 representatives from Punjab — Gurnam Singh Chaduni from BKU Haryana; national president of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdur Mahasangh, Shiv Kumar Kakka, from Madhya Pradesh; general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, Hannan Mollah; and Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav. Ultimately, though, only three of these attended the meeting with the Centre, while Yadav did not.
Speaking to The Indian Express, he said: “At the meetings, the leaders had decided that the invitation would only be acceptable if the four additional representatives were also added to the delegation. However, they called me around noon and told me that in their communication with the home minister, they were told that Amit Shah personally objected to me being a part of it. Apparently the government said that I’m political, but I was to be present as a representative of the farmers’ union and not as one of Swaraj India. The unions said they were ready to boycott the meeting over this exclusion, but I told them that they shouldn’t stall these negotiations because of an individual.”
A member of one of 32 Punjab unions said their primary concern had been that the group have a more national representation: “We didn’t want only Punjab to be represented, so we put forward the four additional names from our side. If there are issues between Yadav and the Centre, it is between them; we are not involved in it. Perhaps he is seen as a political figure while the rest of us are farmers and farmer representatives.”
Jasbir Singh, Haryana state president of the Rashtriya Kisan Sangathan, conceded that Swaraj India “is a political party”. “The only issue I see with the delegation is that no women are a part of it,” he said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines