Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik once again attacked the Union government over the issue of the farm laws on Sunday, saying that it will have to eventually concede to the demands of farmers protesting against the laws, and that it should have invested in world class colleges rather than a new Parliament.
Addressing the Global Jat Summit organised by Teja Foundation in Jaipur on Sunday, Malik said, “The country has never seen such a huge protest where 600 people have been martyred. Even if an animal dies, a condolence message is issued by Delhi leaders. But no prastav (motion) is passed over [the deaths of] 600 farmers. There was a fire in Maharashtra yesterday… and there was a prastav from Delhi. But our 600 people died and no one is speaking on them. Even people from our varg (farming community) did not stand up in the Parliament to pass the prastav. This is not a good situation.”
Saying he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue, Malik said: “I was very hurt and angry and I met the Prime Minister and I told him that you are misreading the situation; these Sikhs cannot be defeated…nor can these Jats be defeated. You think that they (the farmers) will go away just like that; but give them something before sending them off, and don’t do two things: don’t use force on them, second, don’t send them empty handed because they don’t forget, they don’t forget for a hundred years.”
Malik equated it with how former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to pay with her life after Operation Bluestar at Akal Takht, which had hurt the Sikh community, and that General A S Vaidya was assassinated in Pune, after his retirement as the Army Chief, while General Michael O’Dwyer was assassinated in London following the Jaalianwala Bagh massacre.
Malik also sought to separate the farmers’ agitation from the incident at the Red Fort on Republic Day.
“When Kargil (war) happens, 20-year-old kids of these farmers are made to climb the mountains. I believe it was the government’s failure that they entered Kargil, and it was the children of farmers who paid the price for it. This injustice is done only with us, and sometimes people react to it. I don’t want there to be such a day when these farmers react. The farmers haven’t even hit someone with a piece of concrete yet. The Red Fort incident had no relation with farmers’ protest,” he said.
“And had I been the leader of farm protests, I would have still justified it. Only the Prime Minister has the right to hoist the tricolour at Red Fort,” he said.
He said that folklore, stories and songs of Sikhs and Jats frequently mention the Red Fort. “Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded outside the Red Fort, so doesn’t his offspring have the right to hoist the tricolour at the Red Fort? Lal Qila has been part of our (Jats) imagination and history, just like it has been for Sikhs. So if anyone else, other than the PM, has a right to hoist the tricolour, it is us,” he said.
He added that during the ruckus on Republic Day, the tricolour wasn’t hoisted at the same spot where the PM hoists it, but it was made to look “as if something dangerous had taken place, as if treason had been committed.”
“I told the Prime Minister, you are the king, you are the elder, you should tell the farmers that they are wrong and that you are right yet you are still agreeing to their demands because you can’t see their pain – then it would make you taller. I will not tell you what he said or how he reacted…” the Governor said.
He underlined the importance of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farmers and said “when MSP is implemented, it leads to the loss for someone. They want a distress sale by farmers; they purchase at low price from farmers and then sell it at a higher price… I am giving it to you in writing, government or no government, MSP will remain, and it will become law.”
He said that, “Day before yesterday, two Generals said during a discussion that the farmers’ protest is affecting the Indian armed forces too, that anything can happen. Aaj aap takht pe ho, ghamand mein sab kar rahe ho (you are in power today and doing things with arrogance), but you don’t know what the repercussions can be.”
While being cheered on by the audience, Malik was conscious how his words may not sit well with the Centre. He said that every time he speaks on the farmers’ issue, he has an apprehension for a couple of weeks that he might get a call from Delhi. Stating that a Governor cannot be removed, he said “well-wishers” keep waiting for him to say something which leads to his removal, and that ask him on social media why doesn’t he resign if he feels so strongly.
“I say, did your father appoint me? The one who made me (the Governor)… I did not become by vote, I was made (appointed) by 2-3 big people in Delhi, and I am speaking against their wish…The day they say they have a problem ‘leave’, I will not take even a minute,” Malik said.
“I can leave anything, but I can’t see atrocities on farmers, that they are being defeated…while we continue on our post. There is nothing more shameful than that,” he said.
He however, said that there are people in the government who are in favour of farmers “lekin ek aad aadmi ke sar mein taakat itni ghus gayi hai ke usko zameen nahi dikhti hai. (But power has gone to the heads of one or two such people that their feet are not on the ground). But in our village, it is said that even Raavan was arrogant. Someday it’ll be realised that this is wrong, and I believe it’ll be understood very shortly. The farmers won’t return from Delhi after losing,” and added that they’ll continue their protest as long as it takes.
Malik also emphasised the importance of education and how some foreign universities have scores of Nobel Prize laureates while it is not taken up on a priority in India.
“We don’t have good world level colleges…Our government is spending on creating a new Parliament. I would have understood if a good world class college was being constructed instead of a new Parliament. But it is not their priority.”