Farmers’ Protests: Leaders Observe Hunger Strike Even As Talks With Government Remain Inconclusive
Leaders of around 32 farmer unions observed a day-long hunger strike at Delhi’s Singhu border on Monday to protest against the Centre's new farm laws.
The unions said that demonstrations were also held at various district headquarters across the country. The hunger strike began at 8 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. even as talks with the government remained inconclusive.
The unions said that more people expected to join the ongoing agitation, which entered the third week.
United Farmers’ Front said leaders also observed a two minute-silence over the deaths of over 20 protesters at Delhi borders in last 18 days.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday joined Aam Aadmi Party leaders, MLAs and volunteers at the party office to observe fast in support of protesting farmers and said the three laws will lead to “immense inflation and just favour a few capitalists”, as he termed the legislations “anti-farmer and anti-common man”.
“I appeal to parties to stop playing dirty politics over farmers’ issue. These laws are anti-farmers and anti-aam aadmi and are aimed to benefit a few capitalists. These laws will lead to immense inflation through hoarding,” Kejriwal said.
Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel also observed a day-long fast in support of the farmers protesting against three new farm laws.
In a tweet, Goel said, “Sitting on one day fast in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at Vidhan Sabha in support of farmers one day fast today”.
Shiv Kumar Kakka, one of the farmer leaders who observed the hunger strike, said the main purpose of the fast was to draw the attention of the government towards their issue.
“We wanted to send out a strong message to the government that it is not just an agitation by Punjab farmers but also an agitation of farmers from across the nation. We have got support from across the nation. But because trains are not operating, farmers are not able to come or those coming are being stopped," he said.
In Punjab and Haryana, farmers raised slogans outside the offices of district commissioners and took out protest marches on Monday.
The Haryana Police closed the Ambala-Patiala highway after protesters gathered at the Shambhu border point with adjoining Punjab.
Hundreds of farmers have stayed put at the Haryana-Rajasthan border as they were stopped from moving towards the national capital.
“Tens of thousands of farmers are moving towards Delhi from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and other states and the numbers of protesting farmers at Delhi borders are swelling,” a farmer leader said.
Several borders of the national capital remained closed on Monday due to the ongoing protest by farmers against the Centre’s new laws.
The Delhi Traffic Police took to Twitter to inform people about road closures and advised them to take alternative routes to avoid inconvenience.
Farmers from different states have been camping at Delhi’s Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur border points for over two weeks to demand repeal of the farm laws enacted in September.
Multi-layered cemented barriers, additional police force and barbed wires formed the first layer of security at the protest site at Singhu border. The second layer of barricades deployed by the Delhi Police is being guarded by a team of Rapid Action Force along with personnel from the paramilitary forces.
Meanwhile, an IT professional from Punjab’s Ludhiana, who came to India from Sydney in October, is running a Twitter campaign to take on those spreading “fake news and running vilification campaigns” against the ongoing protest.
The Twitter handle -- Tractor2twitr -- has garnered 2.5 million impressions from across the globe since Nov. 28.
“I had come to India in October-end to attend to some personal work, but then this (farmers’ protest) happened and I stayed on,” Bhavjit Singh says.
He said his idea was to disseminate authentic information about the protest as a “lot of people have been tweeting, running a vilification campaign against the movement”.
His friend and a volunteer, Jaspreet Singh, says, “Paid and motivated users dominate and encroach up on the Twitter space. Our campaign is an effort to counter them”.
Protesting farmers at Delhi border points have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporations.
The government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.