Victorious farmers enter New Delhi as government blinks

Protests to continue unless government annuls farm laws, say leaders

Politics

November 27, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Overcoming several barricades as well as braving tear gas shells and lathi-charge, protesting farmers manage to enter New Delhi as the government climbed down on Friday evening. Farmers say they are ready for the long haul if the government does not accede to their demands.


“I have a small farm in Mansa district of Punjab where I grow three crops every year — wheat, rice and mustard. However, despite these three harvests, I am unable to save any money as our input costs keep on rising while we don’t get even the Minimum Support Price guaranteed by the government. I am here in Delhi to protest against the new farm laws which are a serious threat to small farmers like me as they will allow big companies to dominate the buyers and push our sale price even further down,” says Jurmel Singh Manghania, a small farmer from Punjab.

On Friday afternoon, almost two days after he left his village, about 300 km away, Manghania entered New Delhi from Tikri Border in north-west Delhi along with hundreds of other farmers from Punjab and Haryana, after a day-long standoff with Delhi police that had sealed the entire capital, blocking all entry points with barricades, concrete barriers as well as positioning hundreds of armed personnel of police and paramilitary forces like the CRPF and the BSF.

While Manghania has managed to enter the national capital, Harnek Singh, another farmer from Khanna Mandi in Ludhiana is still blocked at the Singhu Border on Delhi-Chandigarh highway as the police has not yet allowed the farmers to enter New Delhi from there. But Singh is just as determined as Manghania.  “I left my home early in the morning on November 26 and we had to overcome so many barriers and barricades in our attempt to reach Delhi. But now that we are here at the border, we will sit here itself if the government does not allow us to go further. But, we are going to resolve our issues and only then will we think of going back. We are carrying six months of ration with us and are prepared for a very long battle,” Singh tells Media India Group, sitting atop his tractor at the Singhu border.

At the Tikri border, with anger and determination writ large on their faces, farmers entered New Delhi chanting slogans and denouncing Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his anti-farmer policies. Such is the outrage amongst the farmers all over the country that in an unprecedented show of unity, nearly 500 farmers’ organisations and unions have come together to mount the protests against the farm bills and other ‘anti-farmer’ policies of the central government.

Delhi Police used water cannons & tear gas to stop farmers from entering New Delhi (MIG photos/Aman Kanojiya)

‘‘The Indian government is inviting the farmers of Punjab on December 3, but the farmers of Punjab have made it very clear that this fight is not just for the farmers of Punjab but the farmers of India. Till then, they must keep these three laws in abeyance. We are aware of the know-hows of farming, it’s our ancestors who were farmers and have been farming since ages. We will not let the big corporates from world over to take over our lands,” Satyawan, president of All India Krishak Khet Majdoor Sangathan (AIKKMS), one of the largest federations of farmers across India, tells Media India Group.

Farmers organisations say that now that the government has finally allowed free movement of farmers, thousands of Haryana farmers are joining the Punjab farmers in large numbers. “Massive numbers are moving along Punjab to Delhi routes and Delhi should see an inflow of hundreds of thousands of farmers by tomorrow, including from Uttar Pradesh and other states,” says a press release by the farmers’ coordination committee that has organised the protest.

“This is a struggle not of the Punjab farmers or not only of the Haryana farmers, but the farmers of the entire country. In Telangana, today in every district, protests are being held in front of the Central government offices because the Central government is the one which has brought this act. The state government of Telangana and the party which is in power actually oppose this act in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. We are demanding that the state government should also do its part in ensuring the remunerative prices to the farmers,” Kiran Kumar Vassi who represents farmers organisation from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh tells Media India Group.

Activists say protests to continue until farm laws are annulled (MIG photos/ Varsha Singh)

The farmers are also upset that while the government has repeatedly claimed that the farm laws are beneficial for the farmers, it did not bother to consult any farmer organisation while drafting the laws. “When they introduced the three laws, first of all not a single farmers’ organisation in the country asked them to bring such ordinances. When they brought the bills in the Parliament, they passed them in a very undemocratic fashion in the Rajya Sabha where the government does not have a majority,” Sunilam from Kisan Sangharsh Samiti tells Media India Group.

Manghania sums up the reasons behind the current state of desperation of the farmers, especially the small and marginal farmers who make for 86 pc of the total farming community in the country. “Our main issue is that wheat and rice crop that we produce should be bought by the government as it is their responsibility. Now with the farm law, all this has been privatised and it will be against our interest. Then there is also too much pressure on us not to resort to stubble burning and that there would be a penalty of INR 10 million for any farmer found indulging in stubble burning, but no one is providing the machines for taking care of the stubble. They need to provide us this machinery. And lastly the debts on farmers like me have risen dramatically over the past few years, but while the government is waiving off debts of large businesses like Ambani or Adani, but there has not been any debt relief for the farmers.”

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