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Friday, February 26, 2021

Farm leaders wait for Centre to make next move, say arrests not a deterrent

Farm leaders say they will be ready for the next round of talks once the government prepares a fresh proposal.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | Delhi |
Updated: February 16, 2021 7:59:37 am
Farmers protest, Farm leaders, Farmers arrest, red fort violence, farm laws, Delhi news, Indian express newsFarmers during their ongoing protest against the Centre's new farm laws at Singhu border in New Delhi. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

The January 26 violence and subsequent arrests have brought to a halt negotiations between the Centre and farm leaders, with no meeting between the two sides since January 22, which saw the eleventh round of talks. Farm leaders had, following that meeting, rejected the government’s proposal to keep the three laws in abeyance for a year-and-half or until a committee — of government officials and farmer representatives — submitted its report.

Farm leaders say they will be ready for the next round of talks once the government prepares a fresh proposal. “In our last round of talks, government representatives had an adamant attitude. They weren’t even willing to discuss the MSP question unless we accepted their proposal. But it wasn’t acceptable to us and will never be and it has to be out of the picture, because our demand is repeal, not suspension… If they form a different proposal and send us an official invite, we will go over to discuss it the very next day,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of BKU Ekta (Dakaunda).

On whether the case against farm leaders and protesters would act as an impediment in moving forward with future negotiation, president of the All India Kisan Federation, Prem Singh Bhangu, said, “The withdrawal of the cases is not a precondition for negotiations for us, but it will be condition before signing any agreement. We are not in favour of any deadlock.”

“We are not worried about the FIRs and notices because that is a part of any agitation of this scale and we were prepared for it. That won’t deter our participation,” said Baldev Singh Sirsa, president of the Lok Bhalai Insaf Welfare Society.

“When we go to the table again for talks, our last demand — after everything else is handled — will be the withdrawal of cases,” said Jagmohan.

However, while stating that the government needs to take the next step, farm leaders also said that they are not just waiting for the next move to happen.

“We have several programmes to seek public participation such as the candle march on Sunday. We will be commemorating the contributions of Sir Chhotu Ram on Tuesday and we have the Rail Roko on February 18. But even more than that, the large mahapanchayats taking place regularly are key methods for the ground to be laid for mobilisation. Those large numbers attending them are on standby, ready to join us here… Earlier, the agitation might have been a nuisance but now it’s a threat,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, leader of the Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch.

“The main plank of our movement is agitation and we are strengthening it and growing in all states. That is the main force which will compel the government to open the door for negotiation,” said Bhangu.

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