The Centre, penning a letter to farmers unions, on Sunday, invited them for the next round of talks at New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan and asked them to choose a date as per their convenience, according to several media reports.
As per The Economic Times , the letter from the agriculture ministry to farmer leader Darshan Pal and all other farmer leaders who were part of earlier talks, stated, “Please inform us of your remaining concerns and inform us of a date convenient to you for a meeting at Vigyan Bhawan so that a solution can be arrived at and the present agitation ends soon.”
He said the Centre is making all efforts to find appropriate solution to resolve all the issues raised by the farmers with an open mind. Previous five rounds of formal talks between the government and 40 farmer unions have failed to break the deadlock with the farmers insisting on repeal of the Centre’s three laws.
The farmers’ protest against the Centre’s three agriculture-related laws entered its 25th day on Sunday with Home Minister Amit Shah stating that Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar would likely meet farmer unions agitating at the borders of the National Capital in a day or two and cultivators upping the ante by declaring that they will observe a day-long hunger strike on Monday at all protest sites.
Farmers further vowed to halt toll collections on Haryana highways from 25 to 27 December.
Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav, addressing a press conference at the Delhi-Haryana Singhu border, said the protest “will be started by a team of 11 members at protests sites here, including the Singhu border” and added that “we appeal to everyone at all protest sites across the nation to participate in the same”.
Yadav claimed that protesters are being threatened by the Haryana government. “This is against the direction of the Supreme Court. I urge them to stop harassing farmers,” Yadav said.
The Supreme Court on Thursday had said that the farmers’ agitation should be allowed to continue “without impediment” and this court will not “interfere” with it as the right to protest is a fundamental right. It had also put a sole caveat that there should not be any breach of peace either by farmers or police.
While announcing the next move by protesting farmers after their hunger strike, farmer leader Jagjeet Singh Dalewala said farmers will halt toll collection on highways in Haryana from 25 to 27 December.
‘Beat thalis during Mann ki Baat’
Leaders of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha said they would reach out to the NDA constituents to urge them to compel the BJP to withdraw the three legislations and also asked people to clang utensils on 27 December during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Mann Ki Baat” radio address as a mark of protest, reported The Hindu.
Farmer leader and senior BKU member Rakesh Tikait, who was also part of the press conference, said that farmers protesting the new agri laws will celebrate Kisan Diwas on 23 December and “we request people to not cook lunch for a day”.
Earlier in the day, cultivators in Punjab and Haryana observed ‘Shradhanjali Diwas’ on Sunday to pay homage to their brethren who died during the ongoing agitation and lit candles in their memory. Farmers’ bodies have claimed that over 30 farmers participating in the stir have died so far due to different reasons including heart attack and in road accidents.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) also wrote to various traders’ unions requesting their support to the ongoing farmers’ agitation.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old Punjab farmer, who returned from a protest site near Delhi border, killed himself allegedly after consuming some poisonous substance, the police said on Sunday. Gurlabh Singh, a resident of Dayalpura Mirza village of Bathinda district, had been part of the protest near the Delhi border. He had returned to his village on Friday, they said.
The police said he consumed some poisonous substance on Saturday at his home. He was taken to the nearest hospital where he was declared “brought dead”. The reason behind the suicide was yet to be ascertained, the police added.
Kisan Ekta Morcha’s FB page blocked, restored
Facebook and Instagram accounts used by the protesting farmers were blocked on Sunday following a live broadcast, NDTV reported.
Managers of Kisan Ekta Morcha, one the biggest pages being used for the movement with over 7 lakh followers, told NDTV their page was removed by Facebook which said it had gone against its community standards on spam.
Their Instagram page faced similar action and was not being allowed to share new posts, they further told NDTV.
Yadav claimed he got a notification that the page was unpublished in the middle of a Facebook Live session:
In midst of a Facebook Live I was doing from Kisan Ekta Morcha’s page, we get a notification that the FB page has been unpublished.
— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) December 20, 2020
The pages were restored around three hours later, said the NDTV report.
The Opposition, with Rahul Gandhi in particular, has repeatedly accused Facebook of favouring the Modi government.
On Wednesday, Facebook’s India head Ajit Mohan, deposing before a parliamentary panel, suggested that the social media company’s fact-checking team has so far found no such element that necessitates a ban on the Bajrang Dal.
Rahul, the next day, citing a US media report that the social media giant’s safety team had recommended a ban on the outfit, asked if Facebook was lying to India and its Parliament.
Rahul in September, tagging an article by the Wall Street Journal on how questions were raised by Facebook employees on its India team’s neutrality after an executive posted internal messages allegedly favouring the BJP, demanded an investigation into the allegations against them.
“International media have fully exposed Facebook’s and WhatsApp’s brazen assault on India”s democracy and social harmony,” Rahul said. “No one, let alone a foreign company, can be allowed to interfere in our nation’s affairs. They must be investigated immediately and when found guilty, punished,” he added.
Centre asking questions over foreign donations: Farmer union
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), one of Punjab’s largest farmer organisations protesting against the recent farm laws, on Sunday said it has been asked by a Central agency to submit its registration details which allow it to receive foreign funds.
The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) stipulates mandatory registration of any outfit receiving foreign fund. The BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) president Joginder Ugrahan and its general secretary Sukhdev Singh claimed that the Centre is “using all tactics as their sole purpose is to defeat the ongoing agitation” [sic].
“A department under the Centre has sent an email which we received through our bank’s branch in Punjab,” Singh said. “In the e-mail, it was stated that we should give registration details in respect of these donations from abroad otherwise they will be sent back The bank manager showed me the email which has been sent by the Forex Department.”
Questioning the timing of the Centre’s demand, Singh said, “It is quite clear that the agitation against the farm laws is against the Centre and they will try to create all hurdles they can in that. They are using all tactics as their sole purpose is to defeat the agitation.” Asked how much foreign fund they have received recently, Singh said, “We are yet to calculate the exact amount.” He added that his outfit will be consulting a chartered accountant or an advocate to submit their reply.
Maharashtra farmers’ ‘vehicle march’ tomorrow
Cultivators from Maharashtra will organise a vehicle march from Nashik to Delhi on Monday, leaving the Centre staring down the prospect of Maharashtra farmers joining their counterparts from northern states in Delhi.
An article in The Hindu quoted All India Kisan Sabha’s national president Ashok Dhawale as saying that ‘thousands of farmers’ from 20 districts of Maharashtra will converge at Nashik on 21 December and then proceed towards Delhi. The AIKS has demanded the repeal of the farm Acts, and an assurance of minimum support prices at one-and-a-half times the cost of production.
This comes as the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government has thrown its weight behind the protesters, and has termed the three new agriculture-related laws as ‘unjust.’ The Maharashtra government has formed a sub-committee to study the laws, and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat has been quoted as saying by PTI that the state government wants to frame laws that will ‘make farmers stronger’.
Farmers are protesting against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. The three farm laws, enacted in September, have been projected by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates. The Centre has repeatedly asserted that these mechanisms will remain.
With inputs from PTI