Will continue protests till 2024 if necessary, says farmer leader Rakesh Tikait

Farmers protesting against recent farm reform laws on the outskirts of Delhi are willing to continue their agitation till 2024 when the next general elections will take place, if required, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said on Wednesday.

Prolonged protests will hurt BJP’s chances in next year’s assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Tikait claimed even as farmers held protests in various parts of Punjab, Haryana, and other states to mark six months of their agitation that started on November 26 last year.

Asked a question if RLD leader Ajit Singh’s death has created political space for him, Tikait said, “I am neither a Jat leader nor a politician, but I know that the state of farmers is not good in UP, and they are all with us. Be it sale of produce or the state of sugarcane farmers, or even electricity, there are issues that we will take to people.”

He was speaking to journalists in a virtual meeting organised by the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC).

Farmers have been protesting against the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Implementation of the laws has been put on hold by the Supreme Court, which has formed a committee for consultation with stakeholders on the laws. The government has so far held 11 rounds of meetings with leaders of the agitating farmers.

Tikait said farmers are ready for another round of talks with the government but are firm on their demands for a law on minimum support price (MSP). “They don’t want to agree on that because that will affect the businesses who are aspiring to buy our produce at really low costs,” he alleged. “BJP leaders in states have no answer to our questions. Today in Gujarat a lot of mango farming is done by businessmen sitting in Mumbai. Do we want that in the whole country?”

He said bills passed by some states ruled by opposition parties to counter the central laws are not of much benefit to the farmers.

Media reports have emerged showing violation of Covid-19 social distancing norms at protest sites on Delhi borders, but Tikait said the farmers have been taking care to see to follow norms.

“Cases of Covid-19 are rising because the government has not built the necessary hospitals, or arranged the requisite medicines,” he said. “We are doing this for our future generations. There will be a time when roti will become like jewellery if the laws are implemented. We are dying two deaths here – one by Covid and another by these laws. If the government is really concerned about our condition, they should take back these laws and we will go back home.”

Protesting farmers burnt some effigies at Ghazipur border in New Delhi while protest marches were reported from various parts of Punjab and Haryana.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal raised a black flag at his house in Badal village in Punjab in support of the protesters.

Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organisation of protesting farmers’ unions, had appealed citizens to put up black flags on their houses and vehicles to mark the occasion. Several opposition parties including Congress, Shiv Sena, NCP and Left have extended support to the protest.

Gurnam Singh Chaduni, leader of Haryana unit of BKU, alleged that the new laws were aimed at improving “agri-businesses” and not the condition of farmers. “In every wtate where there is an election, we will appeal to people to support candidates who can defeat BJP. They are trying to corporatise agriculture which we won’t allow.”

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