Hardening their position ahead of the next round of talks with the government, protesting farmer unions on Saturday said they will take out a tractor parade towards Delhi on January 26, when the country will celebrate Republic Day, if their demands are not met.
Addressing a press conference, the union leaders said the time has come for “decisive” action as their demands have not been addressed by the government yet.
Farmer leader Darshan Pal Singh said their proposed parade will be called “Kisan Parade” and it will be be held after the Republic Day parade.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade at Rajpath on January 26.
The next round of talks between the government and the protesting farmer unions is scheduled to be held on January 4. On Friday, the unions had announced that they would have to take firm steps if the meeting fails to resolve the deadlock.
After the press conference, farmer leader Abhimanyu Kohar told PTI that farm unions are hopeful for the January 4 meeting, but they cannot trust the government going by their experience with them.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at three Delhi border points — Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur for more than a month, demanding repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) for their crops.
“We intend to be peaceful and we told the government during the talks that it has only two options – either repeal the three laws or use force to evict us (from Delhi border points). The time has come for decisive action here, and we have chosen January 26, as the Republic Day represents the supremacy of the people,” union leaders told reporters.
Pal said if their demands are not met, thousands of farmers will have no option but to march towards Delhi with their tractors, trolleys and national flags on January 26.
Asked about the route and timing for their ‘Kisan Parade’, Pal said unions will announce it later.
The farmer leader said their plan for the proposed tractor-march on the Kundli Manesar Palwal (KMP) highway on January 6 will remain unchanged, which he said is a “rehearsal” parade of their “January 26 tractor parade”.
Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said it is a “plain lie” that the government had accepted 50 per cent of the farmers’ demands. “We have got nothing on paper yet,” he said.
“We were peaceful, are peaceful and will be peaceful, but will stay at Delhi borders until new farm laws are repealed,” another farmer leader said.
Farmers’ leaders made it clear that in the last round of talks, the government agreed to two minor demands of the farmers’ movement and even these are yet to be secured in writing or legal form. The major demands of the protesting farmers remain unresolved.
“On the demand to repeal the three central farm acts, the Centre had asked the farmers’ organisations to come up with ‘alternative proposals’, and the farmer leaders responded by saying that there is no alternative other than repeal. The government has refused to agree, even in principle, to our demand for legal right to purchase at MSP. We have no alternative,” Samyukt Kisan Morcha said in a statement later.
Farmer leader B S Rajewal pointed out that the court has also said a ‘peaceful march protest’ is one’s right, adding “we are not here for confrontation.”
After the sixth round of formal negotiations on Wednesday, the government and farm unions reached some common ground to resolve protesting farmers’ concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning, but the two sides remained deadlocked over the main contentious issues of the repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP.
Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Choduni said, “In our last meeting, we posed a question to the government that will you buy 23 crops on MSP. They said ‘no’. Then why are you misinforming the people of the country?”
So far, over 50 farmers have been “martyred” during the agitation, union leader Ashok Dhawale said.
“First they called it a Sikh farmers’ protest, than a north-India protest, now when it is taking place not only country-wide, but world wide, I fear the government now might tell people that it is taking place on only ‘earth’ and not on any other planet,” he said.
The government has presented these laws as major agriculture ‘reforms’, aimed at helping farmers and increasing their income, but the protesting unions fear that the new legislations have left them at the mercy of big corporates by weakening the MSP and mandi systems.