After the second round of talks between farmers’ unions and the Centre remained inconclusive on Monday, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clarify why his government is not ready for a discussion with farmers and workers in the context of the Gramin Bharat Bandh call on February 16.
Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political), a splinter group of the SKM, and Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM) said they will continue with their ‘Dilli Chalo’ march on Tuesday to press their demands after the meeting with Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal, Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, and officials in Chandigarh did not reach any consensus.
A question has now been raised about how effective the February 16 Gramin Bharat Bandh will be, especially in states like Punjab and Haryana which were the focus of the farmers’ protest two years ago. SKM is the flagship organisation of more than 500 farmer unions under which the agitation against the now-repealed farm laws was held.
As the emergency meeting of the nine-member secretariat of SKM started, member Raminder Singh Patiala said the ‘Dilli Chalo’ call of a group of farmers’ unions will be discussed.
Earlier, Dr Darshan Pal, one of the members of the secretariat, told The Indian Express.
“An emergency meeting of the nine-member secretariat of SKM has been called today morning where we will discuss the situation which has emerged at the Punjab and Haryana borders and also the ‘Dilli Chalo’ call of a group of farmer unions. We will meet online today in which many other points related to the Bharat Bandh are to be discussed”.
Asked if SKM will also be part of the ‘Dilli Chalo’ call he said, “We cannot decide it on our own as of now. Our 35-member national coordination committee (NCC) can take this call”. “We didn’t give the ‘Dilli Chalo’ call on February 13. However, organisations other than SKM have the right to protest and it is the responsibility of the Union Government to treat such protests in a democratic manner instead of adhering to excessive state repression,” he added.
Asked if the ‘Dilli Chalo’ call will affect the proposed Gramin Bharat Bandh, he said, “That is our declared programme and it will happen. Apart from farmers, even central trade unions, bank employees, Railways, and transport unions are also part of it”.
“The repression by the Union Government and the various state governments under the BJP will be rebuffed by the people. The farmers and workers with the support of all sections of the people will ensure the February 16 Gramin Bandh is massive, vibrant, and successful”.
On February 3, SKM had said it had nothing to do with the ‘Dilli Chalo’ call and was not part of it.
However, SKM NCC members said in a statement on Monday evening, “The Union Government is handling this protest in a dictatorial manner by putting iron nails, barbed wires, and concrete barricades on the highways in Punjab and Delhi borders. The administration has imposed Section 144 in and around Delhi and Haryana, diverting the traffic without any prior advisory to the public and creating an atmosphere of terror to frighten off the people. The Modi Government is treating protesters as if they are enemies of the country”.
BKU Ugrahan, the largest farmer union of Punjab which is a part of the SKM, has also condemned the government’s measures to stop the farmers from going to Delhi. Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary, BKU Ugrahan, told The Indian Express, “We didn’t give the ‘Dilli Chalo’ call but we are against police repression of any kind. However, we have yet to decide whether we will be a part of this march. How and in which way we will protest against the police repression, our union is yet to take a call on it”.
Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president, BKU Ugrahan, said, “We express strong discontent and anger against the way the Centre and BJP-led Haryana governments are handling the protest by a group of farmers’ unions. The government is harassing the general public without any public advisory. We strongly condemn the way farmers are being projected”.
SKM and BKU Ugrahan even condemned the arrest of five leaders of the SKM in Madhya Pradesh. Kisan Sabha leader Ram Narayan Kuraria, his wife and AIDWA leader Anjana Kuraria, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti leader Aradhana Bhargava, BKU (Tikait) leader Anil Yadav, and NAPM leader Rajkumar Sinha were arrested and jailed under Section 151 of CRPC. Many activists were arrested in various parts of the state as well, said SKM NCC members and BKU Ugrahan state leadership.
Though SKM and BKU Ugrahan are yet to take a call on ‘Dilli Chalo’, Punjab-based farmer union BKU-Lakhowal’s general secretary Harinder Singh Lakhowal has said he will join the march in case of any repression on farmers. BKU-Lakhowal is part of SKM.
“India has a Constitution that enshrines the right to protest for all the citizens. SKM appeals to all the political parties and the class and mass organisations of all sections to condemn this highhandedness by the Modi Administration,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, another SKM NCC member.