Agri laws: Internet suspension, barricades non-conducive for talks with government, say farmers

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NEW DELHI:  On a day the government said it is ready to talk to the protesting farmers, agitators upped the ante and said there would be no discussion until ‘harassment’ by the police and administration stops and detained farmers are released.

Proceedings at Parliament were disrupted, too, with sessions in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha repeatedly adjourned following Opposition protests.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) hit out at the government for digging trenches, fixing nails on roads, setting up barbed-wire fences, and stopping internet services at protest sites.

“It appears the government is extremely fearful of the rising tide of support for the ongoing protest from different states,” an SKM statement read.

Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait, who has been camping at the Ghazipur border, reiterated that protests will continue until their demands are met. “This is now a fight for the freedom of farmers,” he said.

Joginder Singh Ugraha of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmers unions protesting farm laws, said this at Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border where he reached with hundreds of supporters to meet Tikait.

Ghazipur, the camping site of protests led by BKU since November, has virtually turned into a fortress with multi-layer barricading, concertina wires coming up around the site and deployment of large number of security personnel to prevent protestors’ movement to Delhi.

Internet continues to remain suspended at protest sites on Delhi’s borders with Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, disconnecting protestors from accessing social media, among other online forums.

“The credit for saving this movement goes to Rakesh Tikait who has thwarted government’s attempts to end it. The way government has suspended Internet, disrupted water supply, set up barricades and barbed wires around protest sites today, this will not create a conducive atmosphere for talks,” Singh said, according to a statement sent by BKU’s media in-charge Dharmendra Malik.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut visited Ghazipur to express solidarity.

Later, Tikait credited the youth coming in from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh with saving the protest.

He lauded their support for arriving at Ghazipur overnight when the agitation had started losing its momentum after the Republic Day violence in Delhi.

“Young men from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh had come here in large numbers at 2 in the night. Their love and belief has saved this movement,” said the 51-year-old BKU spokesperson, whose emotional appeal last week turned the tide in farmers’ favour.

He also wondered at the government’s approach towards the vexing issue over suspension of internet, enhanced security installations, disruption of water supply and removal of mobile toilets from protest sites.

“There is no place for depriving citizens of basic rights in a democracy,” Tikait said, hours after meeting Raut.

Amid ruckus in both houses, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the “government is ready to discuss issues related to farmers inside and outside Parliament”.

He said the government is committed to discussing the issues. Tomar’s reply came after Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury claimed 170 farmers died during the agitation.

However, SKM said it has not received any proposal for talks.

“Though no formal proposal for talks came from the government, we clearly state that talks will be held only after the unconditional release of farmers who are in illegal police custody,” the statement said.

BKU’s Malik said hundreds of protestors were staying put at Ghazipur on Tuesday night and the number of ‘langars’ and ‘bhandaras’ (community meals) has also gone up.

Gurjar leader Mainpal Chauhan also reached Ghazipur with hundreds of his community members from Kairana region in Shamli district of western Uttar Pradesh, he said.

Chauhan presented a ‘pagdi’ to Tikait and extended support of his community, Malik added.

The Centre also told Lok Sabha that protesting farmers resorted to rioting, damage to property and used ‘criminal force’ against public servants on January 26, forcing Delhi Police to resort to tear gas, water cannons and mild force.

The Lok Sabha was also informed 39 cases were registered between September and December against the farmers.

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