Farmers’ protest: Farmers open to talks with govt, firm on stand against court-appointed panel

The leaders decided to hold a sit-in during January 24-26 at Azad Maidan and march to the Governor’s House on the concluding day.The leaders decided to hold a sit-in during January 24-26 at Azad Maidan and march to the Governor’s House on the concluding day.

Even as the farmer organisations made it clear that they won’t resort to the four-member expert committee set up by the Supreme Court (SC) for a resolution of the stand-off with the government, they are willing to attend the next round of talks with the government to be held on Friday. The farmer groups also reiterated that they would continue and intensify their protest.

Meanwhile, the agriculture ministry has swung into action by making arrangement to hold the meeting of the SC-appointed committee at the earliest, indicating the government’s preference to this route to resole the impasse. If the committee’s members agree, the meeting may be called next week, a source said.

Farmer leaders who met in the afternoon here to take a formal view of the apex court’s order could not do so as many prominent leaders were absent, due to their engagement with farmer mobilisation programmes outside Delhi. It is not immediately clear if there is a discord among the unions on the approach towards the SC-monitored mechanism.

Meanwhile, copies of the farm laws were burnt at the protest sites as farmers celebrated ‘Lohri’ festival. The protesting farmers want repeal of the three contentious laws and a legally guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) mechanism.

One member of the SC-appointed committee said on condition of anonymity he was yet to get a copy of the order and was not aware of the terms of reference. He expressed confidence that the committee would be impartial and objective in its suggestions.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the implementation of three controversial farm laws that have caused a massive and prolonged protest by farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, at Delhi’s borders, via an ‘extraordinary order’, and set up a four-member committee to break the deadlock between the government and farmers, and facilitate resolution of the relevant issues. The court also ordered that the MSP system, which is in existence before the enactment of the farm laws, shall be maintained until further orders. In addition, the court said the farmers’ land holdings shall be protected.

Several farmer groups said Tuesday itself that they won’t participate in the expert committee set up by the Supreme Court. As many as 32 farmer organisations from Punjab, who are protesting at different entry points to the national capital, also vowed to continue the protest, despite the court staying the laws for the time being.

Addressing media in Mumbai on Wednesday, Bhartiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said that while the farmers respect the Court’s decision to stay the three Acts, they have decided to continue the protests until the farm laws are repealed. “We never went to the Supreme Court. Our movement is a revolution. Our movement is against the government,” Tikait said, adding, farmers do not have any other solution.

He called the planned tractor march on January 26 as ‘Tiranga Yatra’ (tricolour march) and said “along with the jawans on Rajpath, there will be farmers.”

The Maharashtra chapter of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) also organised a meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday to chalk out plan for a joint protest on January 26 in which several trade union leaders and social activists also participated. The leaders decided to hold a sit-in during January 24-26 at Azad Maidan and march to the Governor’s House on the concluding day.

Meanwhile, Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala met prime minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday and is believed to have discussed the ongoing protest by farmers. The meeting with Modi comes a day after Chautala along with chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar met home minister Amit Shah. Chautala is the leader of Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), which is the alliance partner of BJP in Haryana. Majority of JJP MLAs have been putting pressure on Chautala to withdraw support from the government due to farmers’ dissatisfaction over the laws. Chautala had earlier said that he would quit the state government if MSP was discontinued.

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