Updated: February 7, 2021 2:13:51 am
Various farmers’ organisations, backed by political parties, on Saturday came out in support of the ‘Chakka Jam’ to protest against the three farm laws and express solidarity with the ongoing farmers’ agitation in Delhi.
Although the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena in principle extended support to the ‘Chakka Jam’, their top leadership stayed away from street protests in Maharashtra. Shiv Sainiks too were missing from the protests.
NCP president Sharad Pawar in a statement issued here said the stalemate can be resolved if Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh or Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari came forward for talks with farmers. “Some senior minister should take the initiate to resolve the issue. The farmers for last two months have been braving the winter chill on roads. This does not send a good image to people both in India and abroad,” he said.
However, neither Pawar nor Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray joined the protests. Majority of Cabinet ministers from all three parties stayed away with one or two exceptions. NCP leader and Minister for Minorities Welfare and Skill Development Nawab Malik participated in the ‘Chakka Jam’ organised by Kamgar Samyukta Aghadi at Kurla in Mumbai. Malik, addressing the gathering, said,
“The Modi government brought these farm laws to give back entry to big corporate houses in agriculture sector.”
State Congress acting president Naseem Khan joined the protests organised by Samyukta Shetkari in Kurla Nehru Nagar. Khan said, “The Congress will not allow the enforcement of the laws at any cost. The government will have to backtrack these laws. Or else farmers’ protests will intensify.”
A senior Congress minister said, “The ‘Chakka Jam’ was under AIKS. It was apolitical. Therefore, we did not take the initiative as it would amount to hijacking the farmers’ agitation. It would also give the BJP an opportunity to accuse the Congress of politicising the farmers’ agitation.”
Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s wife Satvasheela Chavan along with others joined the protest in South Karad in Western Maharashtra. Activists from the Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, AAP, VBA and Samajwadi Party took to streets across the state.
The ‘Chakka Jam’ affected traffic on the busy Pune-Bengaluru National Highway, Pune-Nashik National Highway, Pune-Solapur National Highway and Miraj-Pandharpur National Highway. Almost all the major cities in Maharashtra including Mumbai, Nagpur, Nashik, Pune, Kolhapur, Solapur, Sangli, Satara and Amravati saw protesters stage ‘rasta roko’ between 12 pm and 3 pm. “There were, however, no major law and order incidents across the state and the protests took place peacefully,” said a senior police officer. He said that at several places, the police detained the protesters and later allowed them to go. “In some cases the protesters were booked under the Bombay Police Act and later allowed to go. At some places the protests were just for a few minutes while at others it lasted an hour,” the officer added.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti led the ‘Chakka Jam’ in Kolhapur. “We are fighting for the rights of farmers. The ‘Chakka Jam’ has shown the battle is not over. And the Centre will have to repeal the three contentious farm laws. The farmers are not going to accept any compromise on these farm laws,” he said.
The All India Kisan Coordination Committee, which led the ‘Chakka Jam’, drew spontaneous support from more than 100 organisations in Maharashtra. The Jan Andolan Samanvay Samiti brought various smaller organisations under its banner to bolster the agitation. AAP activists held demonstrations in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur among other cities.
At Karad, Satvasheela Chavan said, “Is this government at the Centre making policies and laws for farmers or the corporate sector?” She along with 40 others were detained by the police. They were later allowed to go. In several Western Maharashtra cities, women’s organisations blocked highways by setting up ‘chullas’ on roads.
Farmer leaders were unanimous in expressing their disappointment with the government’s insensitivity towards them. According to Raghunath Patil, “The ‘Chakka Jam’ has shown no government can ignore the concerns of farmers. Today, farmers from every state joined the protest.”
The NCP president has warned the Centre against using force against the farmers on the Delhi border. “It’s almost 70 days and the government is not realising the seriousness of the farmers’ agitation. If the farmers’ demands are not resolved, things will get worse,” he warned.
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