It's the 100th day since the farmers first camped at Delhi borders to protest against the three new farm laws brought by the Modi government in 2020. Though farmers protest against the new reforms in the agriculture sector began in mid-2020, beginning with 'rail roko andolan', they decided to launch 'Delhi Chalo' campaign to pressurise the government. Farmers blocked major entry points from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana to Delhi to press for their core demand of repealing the laws. Several rounds of discussions were held between the government and the farmer unions. The Centre offered proposals to farmer leaders, listening to most of their demands except repealing of laws. The government in fact offered to put new reforms on hold for 1.5 years but farmers weren't satisfied and said they won't leave until laws are repealed.
100 days of farmers protest in Delhi | What has happened so far
Farmers initiated their protest against the new laws in August, initially blocking railway tracks in Punjab, Haryana but didn't get much traction. In November, they decided to move to near Delhi borders, as part of 'Delhi Chalo' march, blocking major entry points to the national capital at Singhu (Haryana), Ghazipur (Uttar Pradesh) and Tikri intersections.
On November 26, farmers camped near Delhi borders and blocked traffic movement. The number of farmers participating in the protest witnessed a quick surge. In just few days, thousands of farmers were camping at Singhu border with their tractors, along with family members, including children, elderly, raw material for food reserved for months. Same scenes were witnessed at other entry points including Ghazipur, Tikri, Chila (Noida) borders.
Tens of thousands of farmers (mainly from Punjab and Haryana) initially tried to enter Delhi following their 'Delhi Chalo' call but were stopped by law enforcement agencies citing law and order situation.
Initial days of farmers protest near Delhi borders saw law enforcement agencies trying to stop them from entering the national capital using force, resorting to water cannons, or even baton charge, whenever they (farmers) behaved unruly.
By November 30, between 1-3 lakh farmers were protesting near Delhi borders, with no intention to step back and return.
With winters setting in, govt appealed to farmers
As winters started to set-in, the government appealed to farmers to send back elderly, children home, since they would be exposed to extreme weather. However, farmers did not listen to the government. By now, farmer union leaders started negotiating with the Centre represented by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, other officials.
Little or no progress was made in the initial meetings during first few rounds of talks.
Unreasonable demands such as release of those accused for anti-national acts were put forth by farmers.
This move by the farmers cautioned the government, sensing there was something more to this protest as release of anti-nationals had no link with the farmers agitation or even the new reforms. This move by the farmers was also criticised by general public.
On November 28, Home Minister Amit Shah offered protesting farmers to move their protest from Delhi borders and shift to Burari. However, farmers rejected Home Minister's suggestion.
Several rounds of meetings in December and January, but no solution reached
- Between December 3 and January 20, the government and protesting farmers unions met for 10-11 times, when both the sides put their viewpoints regarding the new farm laws.
- But after every round of talks, no conclusion, solution or compromise was reached.
- During various rounds of talks, the government tried explaining farmers about the new laws, using PPTs, clause by clause discussions, but farmers remained adamant on their demand to repeal the laws.
- The Centre during one of the various rounds, came with a proposal of making changes in the 3 new laws, addressing many of farmers concerns including written assurance for the Minimum Support Price (MSP), allowing farmers to approach courts in case of any disagreement between them and private players.
- One of the clause in the new laws is that there would be action against farmers for stubble burning that actually becomes a big reason for pollution around Delhi-NCR every year. However, farmers were against this clause, therefore, the government in the proposal said this clause will be addressed.
- Even after the government was ready to alter the laws, farmer union remained stubborn over demand to repeal the laws.
- Each time the talks took place, they remained inconclusive, though the government did show a more flexible approach but farmers were in no mood to budge.
- Between this, when various rounds of talks took place, many ministers in the government said that the farmers protest was hijacked by the left, naxalites, anti-nationals, khalistanis and that they were being misled as all these parties didn't want a solution to be reached. These forces just wanted to discredit the government internationally.
- There were echoes in the social media that the movement was being funded by Khalistani supporters sitting in Canada, other anti-national elements, that was discrediting the farmers movement.
- However, amid all this, the government kept saying it was open for talks with the farmers anytime, whenever they want.
- As farmers union were seen in no mood for a compromise, on January 20, the government came out with a proposal to put all 3 farm laws on hold for 1.5 years (18 months).
Farmers rejected government proposal to put laws on hold
- The farmers rejected government's proposal to put laws on hold saying they would only want them to be repealed.
- Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Piyush Goyal, other government officials were leading talks with the farmers.
- As no solution with the government was reached, farmers continued conveying it to the government about intensifying protest.
- Meanwhile, the government also became more vocal about the possibility of farmers protest being hijacked.
- In January, farmers sought permission for tractor march on Republic Day (January 26) to further highlight their protest.
- To take their protest at the next level, farmers wanted to take out a tractor march on Republic Day.
Supreme Court asked Delhi Police to take call on tractor march
- Delhi Police held talks with farmer union over their proposed tractor march.
- Since, it was Republic Day when farmers wanted to take out tractor march, there were security concerns.
- First, farmers were asked to take out the march on some other day, but it was refused.
- Farmers wanted to take out tractor march inside the national capital, however, the Delhi Police asked them to take out on the eastern peripheral, citing security concerns.
- After a couple of rounds of talks, the Delhi Police gave its nod for the tractor march but on a designated route, taking assurance from the farmer leaders that they won't deflect from the mutually agreed route and maintain peace.
The January 26 mayhem in Delhi
- Farmer leaders asked other farmers from nearby states to come in large numbers for the tractor parade and make it a big event, but it unfolded as one of the darkest days in the Indian history.
- Many group of farmers who participated in the tractor march, entered Delhi prior to the time they had agreed upon, deflected on routes that were not mutually agreed with Delhi Police.
- But situation worsened when hundreds of farmers moved to Red Fort, barged in, created havoc, vandalised, damaged public property, and hoisted Nishank Sahib (a religious flag).
- Farmers turned violent when Delhi Police tried to stop them.
- Many videos of Republic Day mayhem in Delhi have surfaced in which farmers were seen attacking Delhi cops ruthlessly, using sticks, speeding tractors and even swords.
- Most dramatic, shocking events turned at Red Fort when farmers in order to enter the historic monument attacked cops using swords.
- Videos surfaced online showed how dozens of cops were jumping off from Red Fort wall into the river to save their lives.
- The cops showed maximum restrain as they could have used more force but since they were farmers, police said they didn't want to hurt them.
- Agitating farmers clashed with police, broke barricades, rammed their tractors into police vehicles. In order to control them, the police used teargas and were forced to lathicharge.
Violent tractor march resulted in farmers movement being discredited
- Tractor march on Republic Day which was meant to be a peaceful protest by the farmers resulted in violence, mayhem in Delhi.
- This discredited farmers' movement and was a big blow to the agitators.
- The police said that farmers didn't obey the mutually agreed route adding those responsible behind this mess will have to answer.
- Tractor march became the weakest point in farmers protest that was becoming strong day after day.
- After January 26 mayhem, many farmer groups withdrew from the protest, vacating borders saying they didn't want to be associated with the protest anymore, taking moral responsibility. Though they would still be pressing for their demands but won't be associated with the ongoing protest anymore.
- For one moment, it felt like the end of the farmers protest was near as Republic Day violence hit their morale.
- Farmers at the Gazipur border, including Rakesh Tikait who was spearheading the protest also said that he will vacate the border.
- Though the protest sites were being emptied by farmers pretty quickly but then a video of Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union, in tears surfaced online following which farmers who were on the backfoot once again gained attention.
- In the viral video, Rakesh Tikait was seen crying, disheartened with the way movement was losing faith, momentum and power.
- However, the video moved farmers in villages, people of his community, other came running for him.
- Police force, additional security forces had surrounded the Ghazipur border site to prevent any untoward incident where Tikait was protesting, and was preparing to vacate the place.
- But after his video went viral, Rakesh Tikait took a U-turn saying he would not vacate the site and protest until the government repeal laws. It was one of the most dramatic day with unexpected happenings.
Farmers protest now
- Ever since that day, no major talks with the government have taken place.
- Rakesh Tikait, who became the face of the movement after Republic Day violence, has been reiterating that they won't leave until laws are repealed.
- Meanwhile, farmer unions are now focussing on other states, generating support for the protest.
- Rakesh Tikait has been seen addressing Mahapanchayats to garner support for the protest while giving time till October to the government to accept their demands, failing to which, he has said that the protest will move towards Parliament.
- Even after Republic Day violence, and all this while, the government has maintained its stand that it is still ready for talks with farmers to solve the crisis.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi has himself reiterated on several occasions, in the Parliament that his government was just a call away for a dialogue with the farmers.
- However, there has been no significant talks between both parties after January 26.
- Moreover, after Republic Day mayhem, police, other probing agency has been suspecting involvement of international conspiracy, behind the violence and also the conduct of the agitation.
- Farmers movement was further dented when international influencers including climate activist Greta Thunberg, singer Rihanna, Mia Khalifa, others came out in support of farmers protest.
- The government was quick to respond to international influencers who commented on farmers protest saying they were ill-informed and have no knowledge of facts.
- Even prominent personalities from bollywood, sports, also came out in support of the government after Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, Rihanna's tweet, saying it was India's internal matter.
The toolkit episode
Three activits including Disha Ravi, Shantanu, Nikita Jacob came under scanner after a toolkit in relation to the farmers protests was shared by Greta Thunberg.
A 'toolkit' is a series of guidelines suggesting how a particular aim can be achieved. Toolkits chart out plans of action explaining topics at hand and offers suggestions that could be followed to achieve particular goals.
The Delhi Police contended that the Google document tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to back the farmers' protest and then deleted, was created by Ravi and two other activists -- Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk.
What's the current status of farmers protest
- Farmers have announced a series of Mahapanchayats in March as the stalemate continues.
- The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has released the list of Mahapanchayats to be held from February 28 to March 22 in various parts of the country.
- The farmers have announced the series of Mahapanchayats with an aim to intensify their agitation against the contentious farm laws.
- When asked that if the farmers will not hold the discussion then how will this stalemate end and the public will continue to face the problems because of the protest, Tikait said, "We are ready for the discussion. We have even sent messages regarding our issues but the government has not replied to them. This protest is for everyone."
- Apart from the BKU, several parties are also organising their Mahapanchayats to show solidarity with the farmers' protest.
What's the government's response to farmers demand
- In the proposal that the government sent to the farmers earlier during talks, the Centre agreed to a written Minimum Support Price.
- Centre agreed to a written Minimum Support Price (MSP) assurance and uniform tax for private market yard and APMC -- a marketing board established by state governments to ensure that farmers are safeguarded from exploitation by large retailers, as well as ensuring the farm to retail price does not touch excessively high levels.
- There will be a provision for registration for private traders dealing in trade.
- On the issue of scrapping farm laws, the government said it is ready to consider the provisions of the laws on which the farmers have raised objections.
- On the issue regarding registration of traders, the government has given assurance to frame new rules under which state governments will be given powers to come up with new rules for the welfare of farmers.
- Clearing the apprehension among farmers that their fields will be attached, the government ensured not to take any such action.
- The government's proposal clarified that the provisions in the new laws are very clear and it will release them and publicise them in a clearer manner if there is any confusion on the issue.
- The government cleared the misconception on the APMC Act that farmers will be caught in the clutches of private mandis and mandis' established by mandi samiti will weaken.
- The government proposed an amendment in which there will be a provision that state governments can impose the registration rule for private mandis.
- There will also be a provision that the state governments ensure similar rate of "cess fee" in private as well as APMC mandis.
- On the issue that big industrialists will take over farmers' land and the farmer will be landless, the government's proposal said it is already clear in the new law that neither can any loan be availed by the buyer on the structure to be built on the farmer's land nor can such a structure be held hostage by him.
- On the issue that there is no system of registration on agricultural contracts, the government said if the trader is not registered, he has to file a copy within 30 days regarding the deal with the farmers.
- The government also said that those approaching the civil courts would now be allowed. Earlier, farmers had sought a rollback of this law.
- On the Electricity Amendment Act 2020, the government has assured that the Act would not be implemented and the earlier process would be maintained as status quo.
- On the farmers demand' to take back the law on stubble burning, the government said it will come up with a proper arrangement on the subject.
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