In an exclusive interview with the Softcopy, the AIKS general secretary explains the rationale behind continuing protests and insists that the farmers want to go home.
Bengaluru: Farmers will withdraw from the Singhu border if the government gave written assurance that they would accept the primary demands of Samyukta Kisan Morcha, said Hannan Mollah, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). They want the withdrawal of cases against the protestors and reparations for families of those who died during the protests.
However, the movement would continue in other forms unless the government gives in to all demands of the farmers.
He said, “People have been sitting at the border for more than a year leaving their families at home. We didn’t come here to sit on the road forever. One major demand has been accepted; we hope we would be able to reach an amicable solution for the rest of the issues.”
The farmer protests near New Delhi began on November 25, last year as several farmer unions marched towards the capital from Punjab and Haryana. They were protesting against the three farm laws passed by the Indian Parliament in September 2020.
After a year of protests, on November 29, both the houses of the Indian Parliament passed the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 that invalidated the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The government is yet to pass a bill that assures the minimum support price (MSP) for farmers. Mollah said their demand for MSP is more than twenty years old. They also want the government to look after the families of farmers who died during the protests. “Seven hundred people have died because of the government’s arrogance. If the laws were repealed six months ago they wouldn’t have had to die,” he added.
However, the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare Narendra Tomar said in parliament that his department doesn’t have any knowledge about farmers’ deaths during the protests. So the ‘question of reparation does not arise.’
The unions also want an immediate withdrawal of all the cases registered against farmers. Mollah said, “Around 50,000 cases have been registered against farmers in Haryana.
It is an accepted norm that whenever a movement ends, the cases are withdrawn. We protested democratically and peacefully. We have broken the myth that the people of the country don’t have a voice. It is the victory of the people.”
The farmers have been demanding that union minister Ajay Mishra—whose son was allegedly involved in the Lakhimpur Kheri farmer deaths—resign and action be taken against him. However, Mollah said, the farmers would withdraw from the border regardless, if the rest of their demands are met.
The eight-time former Member of Parliament blamed the government for ‘driving the farmers in circles’ regarding a meeting with the farmers. “Unlike them (BJP), we are a democratic organization. Papers reported that the government has asked to meet five farmers. We are a body of 500 organizations. The coordination committee and the general body need to decide before sending the names,” he said.
Rakesh Tikait, leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union also accused the government of not being open for talks. He said, “the Government is not willing to speak, we would be able to give out the details of our next steps as soon as the government meets us.”
Recently, the Tamil Nadu government withdrew cases against agitators in two major protests. Advocate Anagha Kulkarni said that normally the state governments withdraw charges after the protest but the state could choose not to recall cases citing ‘violation of public order.’