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Seven months of farm protests: Farm unions grapple with risky decision of ‘what next?’

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(This story originally appeared in on Jun 26, 2021)

The farm protests against the three central farm laws at the Delhi borders completed seven months on June 26. Ever since the farmers reached Singhu and Tikri for protests of the Delhi borders on November 26, 2020, evening, there have been 11 rounds of talks between central ministers and farm groups under the banner of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM). The last round of talks was held on January 22, 2021, but it broke after the Centre put forward a proposal that the laws could be held in abeyance for 18 months and a joint committee formed to look into their merits and demerits.

Later, given the turn the protest took during the farmers’ tractor parade on January 26, they were suddenly given the epithets of Khalistanis, urban naxals and anti-nationals. Farmers have managed to come out of that and have stoically continued with the protests, but there has been no major action after that.

“It is a matter of survival for farmers. These laws are against the interests of farmers, who fear losing their land and whatever minimum support price (MSP) they are getting on a few crops (mainly wheat, paddy). We are here to get the laws repealed and make the government bring an act for legal guarantee of MSP on all crops to all farmers. We are not going back before that despite knowing fully well that we may have to face a lot of onslaught,” said senior farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal (77).

“The BJP is still not tired of testing our patience. After all its tricks failed, it is now resorting to defamation. We will face this as well but will not go away. These laws are against the economy, social life, the soul and spirit of farmers,” claimed BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan (75), who is part of SKM’s nine-member apex committee.

These months have also seen farmers of Punjab and Haryana stand by each other. The protests of Punjab based farm groups are being run with the active support of villagers in Haryana. “Going by all this, the Haryana government is now raising the bogey of SYL canal, which directly concerns the farmers from both the states. But farmers will not fall into this trap and many feel it is a dead issue,” said a farm leader.

Rakesh Tikait, who has emerged as another big face of the movement, has categorically said that government is not ready to listen. “Get ready with your tractors as the struggle has to be intensified to save our lands. The central government must stop thinking that farmers will go back. Farmers will go back only when their demands are met. Our demands are that the three laws should be repealed and make an act on MSP,” he said.

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