Farmers leaders said they will examine the government’s proposals on the amendments with other unions on at Singhu (Delhi-Haryana) border on Wednesday. The sixth round of discussions with union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar is unlikely to be held on Wednesday, officials said.
Earlier during the day, the nationwide strike called by farmers’ groups received a mixed response as thousands of farmers across India took to the streets in solidarity with those protesting in Delhi. Home Minister Shah’s discussion with farmers’ groups started after 8 pm at the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) at Pusa and lasted for more than two and half hours, officials added.
The venue of Tuesday’s meeting with Shah was changed at the last hour. During the discussion, Shah tried to allay fear among farmers and addressed their grievances, including assurance on the minimum support price (MSP). He also urged them to call off their strike. However, the farmers’ groups demanded a complete rollback of the new farm laws. They also threatened to continue with the protests if their demands are not met. At Tuesday’s meeting, farmers’ groups said they have demanded just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from Shah.
The home minister, it is learnt, sought feedback on the Bharat Bandh from the farmers’ groups. Earlier, the farmers union, during a press conference, said that the bandh was observed at around 10,000 places in 25 states. The farmers’ delegation included Darshan Pal, Rakesh Tikait, Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Hannan Mollah, Shiv Kumar Kakkaji, Balbir Singh Rajewal,, Raldu Singh Mansa, Manjeet Singh Rai, Buta Singh Burgjil, Harinder Singh Lakhowal, Kulwant Singh Sandhu, Bodh Singh Mansa and Jagjit Singh Dallewal.
One of farmer leaders, Ruldu Singh Mansa of Punjab Kisan Union left in confusion over the venue as it was first decided that the farmers’ groups will meet at Shah’s residence. Mansa later joined the meeting at ICAR along with another union leader Bodh Singh, officials added. Shah’s meeting was held a day ahead of the sixth rounds of talks scheduled between 40 farmers’ groups and the central delegation, led by agriculture minister Tomar.
The home minister also met agriculture minister Tomar and railway minister Piyush Goyal. The two headed five rounds of deliberations held with farmers earlier at Vigyan Bhavan. “The sixth round on Wednesday has been postponed as representatives of 13 farmers groups want to hold wider consultations on proposed amendments,” explained an official.
Leaders of opposition parties including the Congress, CPM, AAP and Samajwadi Party, who were supporting the bandh were not allowed to join the protestors, they alleged. In Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party, which supported the Bharat Bandh, alleged that the Delhi Police had put Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal under house arrest after he met the protesting farmers at the Singhu border on Monday, a claim denied by the Delhi police.
Besides the Delhi-Meerut expressway, seven other borders remained closed due to the farmers’ protest including Singhu, Tikri, Auchandi, Jharoda, Piao Maniyari, and Mangesh in outer and south-western parts of the city and Chilla border, connecting Delhi and Noida, in east Delhi.
Delhi Police on Tuesday urged people to avoid specific stretches in view of a ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by farmers demanding a repeal of the new central farm laws. In neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, shops and commercial establishments remained closed at many places. More than 50,000 government employees in Punjab have taken mass casual leave in support of the farmers, said an official from Punjab government.
Home ministry officials said no major untoward incidents were reported during the protest and its impact was very limited.