It has now become amply clear that the farmer union leaders, who have been staging a dharna for the last 45 days on Delhi’s outskirts, are unwilling to listen to reason and are raring for a confrontation. On Friday, the Centre, too, hardened its stance by ruling out any possibility of repeal of the three farm laws.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal bluntly told the farmer leaders that the laws would not be repealed and it is ready to leave it to the Supreme Court to resolve the dispute. The Supreme Court will be hearing the matter on Monday January 11.
The farmer union leaders rejected each and every suggestion that the Centre put on the table: They rejected Tomar’s offer to amend the farm laws by saying that there would be no ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming) till there is ‘kanoon wapsi’ (repeal of laws); they told the Centre that they would not end to the stir even if the Supreme Court asked them to do so; they were unwilling to go before a Supreme Court appointed panel saying that this was a matter to be decided by the government and not the court; they rejected Tomar’s third suggestion to allow Baba Lakha Singh to mediate, saying this was not a religious matter.
Tomar told the farmer leaders that since the government has already accepted two out of four demands, and that was ready to give written guarantee to continue with minimum support prices, the only contentious point that remains to be resolved is the demand for repeal of farm laws. He said the Centre was ready to place the three farm laws before a panel to suggest amendments, but the farmer leaders outrightly rejected this, saying nothing short of a repeal was acceptable to them.
There were heated discussions during the talks. Tomar told the farmer leaders that the new farm laws were applicable to the entire country and not to one or two states. The government, he said, cannot ignore the sentiments of farmers from other states who fully support the new laws. After two and a half hours of discussions, it was decided to hold the next round of talks on January 15.
After the end of Friday’s round of talks, All India Kisan Sabha leader Hannan Mollah said, intensifying the stir was now the only way left since the Centre does not want to repeal the three farm laws. Another farm leader Darshan Pal of Krantikari Kisan Union said they have lost all faith in the Centre and agitation was the only way out. The farmer leaders were divided among themselves over whether to join the next round of talks on Jan 15. While Rakesh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union said that they would join the talks, another farm leader Kulwant Singh said, there seems to be no logic in wasting time over what he called pointless talks.
The farmer leaders will decide on Sunday whether to join the talks on January 15 or not. A large section among them want to exert pressure on the government by continuing their stir till January 26, when they plan to bring out a ‘tractor parade’. They have appealed to people to donate flags which they would carry during the parade.
The farmer leaders have now made the demand for repeal of laws an issue of prestige, and are therefore unwilling to listen to reason. They do not want the laws to be amended, they do not want to follow the Supreme Court’s directions, and they also do not want mediation from any corner. The opposition parties, which are blindly opposed to Narendra Modi, are waiting to take advantage of the present impasse. The Left leadership along with its cadre is already working full time using its red flags among the ranks of agitating farmers.
On Friday, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi met her party MPs and told them that the party will now come out in the open in support of the agitating farmers. The meeting was held at Rahul Gandhi’s residence. Rahul Gandhi is presently holidaying in Italy. The Congress and the Left have joined hands to embarrass the ruling party. The farmer leaders will now have to take a call whether they want to give due respect to an elected government, to the Parliament, to the Supreme Court, or not.
A country is run by rule of law and Constitution, and if the pillars of Constitution are ignored, it may lead to anarchy. In a democracy, if there is no consensus after talks, the two sides should listen to the judiciary. Even if one side is unwilling to listen to the court’s views, then mediators or arbitrators can be appointed. An elected government must not be browbeaten by street protesters. The Congress, which is egging on the protesting farmers, and labelling Narendra Modi as ‘cruel’ and ‘despotic’ must remember how it used brutal police force in a midnight crackdown to disrupt a dharna by Swami Ramdev and his supporters at Ramlila Maidan in 2011.
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