PM Modi promises to repeal farm laws but farmers vow to continue until all demands are met

Farmer protests will continue as planned until all farmer demands are fulfilled, announced farmers group Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) after Prime Minister Narendra Modi promises to withdraw farm laws.

“All announced plans are underway, and the SKM appeals to farmers to join in very large numbers in the Lucknow Kisan Mahapanchayat on November 22. The SKM also appeals to farmers in various northern states to reach morcha sites on November 26 to mark the completion of a year of continuous peaceful protests at Delhi’s borders,” said SKM leaders in a joint statement.

During Prime Modi’s speech on November 19, to withdraw the three contentious farm laws, he also appealed to farmers to retreat from their protest sites along various borders. However, after observing a meeting with various farmer leaders, farmers resolved to stand their ground. As such, the SKM said it will continue to keep toll plazas free from any fee collections.

In other parts of India, supporters will mark the first anniversary of the farmers’ struggle with tractor and bullock cart parades in capital cities. Further, Maharashtra farmers will organise a massive farmer-worker maha panchayat on November 28 in Azad Maidan of Mumbai under the banner of Samyukta Shetkari Kamgar Morcha. In the national capital, farmers will carry out tractor trolley marches with 500 protesters each day of the Parliament’s winter session that begins November 29.

“There are pending demands that the central government is choosing to ignore even after such a protracted struggle with a high and avoidable human toll. Farmers are struggling for a legally-guaranteed MSP for all agricultural produce for several years now,” said farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal.

Leaders said farmers were compelled to fight against the forcibly-passed laws to protect future generations, but the demand for a fair MSP remains an integral part of the agitation. Similarly, farmers also demand the withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill 2021 and penal clauses related to statutes on air quality regulation in Delhi. All these demands are still pending, said the SKM.

State governments like Punjab, Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu etc. congratulated farmers for the partial victory. However, farmers also marked Friday with the death of Jaswinder Singh from Muktsar district of Punjab, associated with Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU-Kadian).

“Martyr Jaswinder never went home from the Tikri border after reaching there on November 26, 2020. He heard the good news of the announcement and was happy about the first victory of the agitation. This movement is made up of many many such warriors,” said the SKM in its statement.

So far, more than 670 protestors have died in the farmers’ struggle. Leaders said that the government should support the families of these martyrs with compensation and employment opportunities. The SKM also demanded withdrawal of the hundreds of false cases against thousands of farmers in various states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh etc.

Small wins in a battle for justice

Friday was also marked with another win for Haryana farmers in Hansi. Their gherao (protest via surrounding) of the SP’s office finally concluded with the administration conceding to farmer demands. The Hisar district administration invited a delegation of farmers to discuss the demands: compensation for injured protestor Kuldeep Rana, and FIR against Madhya Pradesh PSO. Authorities agreed to form a Special Investigation team (SIT) and accept all other demands.

Meanwhile, UP farmers noted that Union Minister Ajay Mishra continues to evade any legal action, and continues his position in the Union Cabinet despite the Lakhimpur Kheri violence. The SKM has long demanded his sacking for his alleged role in the killings of four farmers and a local journalist. However, the group observed that Mishra attended the Conference of DGPs/IGPs in Lucknow on Friday.

“In a provocative manner, he was made the Chief Guest by the DM of Lakhimpur Kheri for the inauguration event of the crushing season in Sampoornanagar sugar mill (a Cooperative Mill that owes at least 43 crores to farmers for the last season) on November 24,” said the SKM.

Therefore, it advised the administration to cancel the planned event so as to avoid hurting farmer sentiments.

Voicing support for protesting farmers following the repeal of the three farm laws, BJP MP Varun Gandhi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 20, 2021, appealing to him to announce a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all crops.

Gandhi, who is part of a section of leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) voicing support for the farmers’ struggle in recent months, tweeted a letter to Modi for his “large-heartedness” in repealing the laws before discussing a major demand of peasants that is as yet unmet: legalisation of MSP.

“For the empowerment of farmers, we have to ensure that they get remunerative prices for their crops. This movement will not end without the resolution of this demand and there will be widespread anger amongst them… My humble request to you is that the government must immediately accept this demand,” he said in the letter.

Pointing out that there are more than 85 percent small and marginal farmers in India, Gandhi urged Modi to provide a legal guarantee for MSP of various crops based on the C2+50 percent formula. Doing so will improve their condition by providing economic security, he said.

Gandhi’s support for farmers has been particularly pronounced since the Lakhimpur Kheir killings when four farmers, a local journalist were killed after SUVs mowed down protesters. Shortly after the incident, he condemned the killings and urged Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to call for investigations into the matter.

His critique of his own party members cost him his position as the party’s national executive. However, he continued to support farmers by saying that there was ample video evidence concerning the killings.

Keeping up this support, he said in his letter, “Many leaders sitting in senior positions have given provocative statements against our agitating farmers. It is the result of such statements and the adversarial atmosphere created around the movement that… our farmer brothers were crushed to death by vehicles in Lakhimpur Kheri. This heart-breaking incident is a blemish on our democracy.”

While Gandhi did call for strict action for the deaths, he failed to mention the prime accused in the case, Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish, who allegedly ran over farmers with his Mahindra Thar vehicle. Farmers group Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has repeatedly demanded the dismissal of the Minister for allowing the violence – allegedly orchestrating – the violence on that day.

Gandhi also wrote about the rest of the 700 farmers who were martyred in the past one year.

“I believe that if this decision had been taken earlier, all these innocent lives would not have been lost. It is my humble request to you that while expressing condolences to the families of our [farmer martyrs] a compensation of Rs. 1 crore each be announced for them. Furthermore, all politically motivated false FIRs that have been registered as weapons of harassment against our farmers during this movement must immediately be quashed,” said Gandhi.

The MP concluded the letter by suggesting accepting farmer demands will increase Modi’s respect in the country. Aside from MSP and Mishra’s dismissal, farmers have also voiced concerns about the Electricity Bill 2021 and the AQM bill.

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