If the Narendra Modi government and the BJP thought that by announcing the withdrawal of the three controversial farm laws, the government would be able to placate the farmers, protesting in several parts of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh for the last almost a year, to end their protests, fold their tents and go back to their respective villages, the government may have grossly miscalculated.
Ahead of the crucial meeting of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the conglomerate of farmers’ organizations, which is spearheading the ongoing agitation against the farm laws, the majority of the individual organizations were in favour of continuing with the protests till all the demands of the farmers are met.
Sources in SKM told India Ahead News that several leaders of the SKM were of the opinion that Friday’s announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his government had decided to get a bill passed in the coming Winter Session of Parliament to withdraw the three contentious laws could not be accepted at face value and unless Parliament actually passed the Bills and the same received Presidential assent and are notified, the protests must continue.
They also want the planned protests like the tractor march to Parliament on November 29, the day the Winter Session begins, as well as nationwide protest meetings on November 26, should be held as scheduled.
Farmer leaders were of the opinion that the announcement by the Prime Minister was a political move ahead of next year’s elections in five states, especially the nation’s largest and politically most-important state of Uttar Pradesh, and the farmers should not fall for the government’s ploy.
Many farmers, sources said, are also pressuring their leaders into not ending the protests without the concrete and visible action by the government on the other demands of the farmers. These demands include a law to give statutory backing to Minimum Support Price (MSP), withdrawal of amendments to the Electricity Act, unconditional withdrawal of all cases registered by various state governments against protesting farmers, compensation to the next of kin of all 700-odd farmers who lost their lives during the ongoing protests, removal of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra, whose son is under arrest for allegedly mowing down peacefully-protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, and action against elements who attacked protesting farmers.
“The PM and the BJP have decided to withdraw the three laws due to political compulsions as they know they are losing in the coming elections. But we are not in favour of lifting the dharnas till the three laws are withdrawn by Parliament and action is taken on our other demands. Let us see what decision is taken at the meeting (of the SKM) today. The majority of us have no faith in the government,” said a member of the SKM, who didn’t wish to be identified.
This leader also claimed that the government’s real intent could be seen from the fact that even though MoS Mishra is facing the ire of farmers, he has been invited as chief guest at an official function in Kheri later this month.
“Isn’t this rubbing salt in our wounds? How can we trust the words of the government? We have been demanding that the minister should be removed from his post till the case is sub-judice,” said the farmer leader.
Another farmers’ leader also said the possibility of an end to the ongoing agitation immediately was bleak.
“Our supporters will not accept if we lift our dharnas on the basis of just assurances. Moreover, there is an important issue of MSP that is still unresolved. Already, many BJP leaders have said the three laws will be brought back after the Assembly elections. We have lost hundreds of our friends and family members. We have been away from our homes for a year. We can’t go back empty-handed, especially since the government has clearly lost,” this farm leader said.
But what will be the response of the agitating farmers if the Supreme Court tells them to vacate public places now that their main demands have been met?
“Who says our demands have been met? Have the three laws been officially withdrawn? Has the government issued an ordinance in this regard? What about MSP, compensation for our dead farmers, action against the minister (Mishra)? As for the Supreme Court, we will respond when the court asks us for our response,” he said.