With talks deadlocked and farmers announcing a hunger-strike on Monday, more voices in the Government came out Sunday to allege that riding the protests were ideological forces opposed to the government and the “nation’s progress and integrity”. At the same time, the negotiation door was kept open with Union Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary telling PTI that the government would soon “decide a date” and call farmer leaders for the sixth round of talks.
In an address to farmers in Bihar, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad invoked the “tukde tukde gang”, warning of “stern action”. And, in the capital, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that those opposed to the farm Bills were the same cast of “Leftist” characters opposed to the abrogation of Article 370, the new citizenship law (CAA) and the Ram temple.
BJP launched a statewide ‘Kisan Chaupal Sammelan (farmers’ conference)’ in support of the new laws, Prasad said, “They wanted us to promise MSP in writing, when we agreed, they started talking about repealing the laws… Let me make it clear that the Government of India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi respect farmers and farmers too respect the PM. Lekin agar kisan andolan ki aad me Bharat ko todne wale log, tukde-tukde log peechhe hokar andolan ke kandhe se goli chalayenge to unke khilaf sakht karyawahi ki jayegi. Yeh bhi baaat saaf hai isme, koi samjhauta nahi karenge (But if in the guise of the farmers’ protest, those breaking up the country, the tukde-tukde people fire from the shoulders of the movement, we will take strict action against them. This is clear… there will be no compromise).”
Referring to human rights activists lodged in jails, Prasad said, “Who are these people who want to break the country? Now demands are being raised to free those so-called intellectuals who are in jail for indulging in rioting in Delhi and Maharashtra. Police have filed chargesheets, they are not able to obtain bail from the court as trials are underway. Now these people have taken refuge under farmers movement for their interest but we will not allow them to succeed in their goal.”
These remarks come in the wake of some farmer groups distancing themselves from one of the key groups, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), whose members, on December 10, waved posters of jailed activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case and demanded their release.
“First they called us Khalistani, then they called us Pakistani, now we are called Naxals…the same people harp on the importance of dialogue,” the group’s leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan had told The Indian Express.
Incidentally, on December 11, in an interview to The Indian Express, Prasad had struck a more conciliatory note. “The way out will be, democracy is ultimately dialogue. Democracy is ultimately persuasion. Democracy is ultimately reaching out. The Prime Minister very beautifully put it yesterday in a different context—kuchh kahiye, kuchh suniye. This kahiye suniye (discussion) is going for (the) last 20 years.”
In New Delhi Sunday, Tomar, who has held talks with the farmers, too, echoed Goyal and Prasad. “There are some forces in the country which oppose any good work that can contribute to India’s progress…they always try to mislead the country,” Tomar said after meeting a group of farm leaders from Uttarakhand who had expressed their support for the farm laws.
“You remember, when the Bill to repeal Article 370 from Kashmir was brought, there were such Leftist elements who were opposing its removal. When the Citizenship Amendment Bill came… they opposed it. When the agrarian reform Bills came, these were also opposed. When the issue of Ram temple came up, it was also opposed. There are some people who just have to oppose and it has become their intention to weaken the country,” Tomar said.
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On December 11, Tomar had asked protesting farmers to be vigilant against the misuse of their platform by what he called “anti-social” as well as “Leftist and Maoist elements”.
Tomar’s remarks came after a meeting in Delhi on Sunday with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and attended by BJP leaders from Punjab, including state unit chief Ashwani Kumar Sharma and organisation general secretary (Chandigarh and Punjab) Dinesh Kumar.
After that meeting, Kumar told The Indian Express: “We gave our feedback about the situation in Punjab. Majority of farmers in the state are busy with their farming activities.”
Kumar, too, alleged that the farmers were being “misled” by political parties.
“The Congress party started this movement but now they have lost control over it. The farmers’ movement has gone into the hands of Naxalites, Left, and Khalistanis. Therefore, the issue has become sensitive. The protesting farmers should not allow anyone to push Punjab back to its days of unrest,” Kumar said.
Asked about the possibility of another round of talks, he said, “The government is always ready for talks but protesting farmers need to understand that they should send a smaller group of representatives so that a consensus can emerge.”
At Delhi’s Singhu border, farmer unions reiterated their demand for a repeal of the three laws. Speaking to reporters, farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said heads of all protesting farmer unions will observe a one-day hunger strike on Monday. Dharnas will also be staged at all district headquarters, he said.
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