Vibha Sharma/Mukesh Tandon
Tribune News Service
New Delhi/Sonepat, January 21
In a move that brought the situation back to square one, farmers’ unions on Thursday rejected the BJP-led government’s offer to suspend the implementation of the three contentious farm laws for a-year-and-a-half or any period agreed upon mutually between the protesting farmers and the Centre.
The decision was taken at a full general body meeting of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of the agitating unions across the country.
It was a difficult decision for union leaders who today held several rounds of talks and also discussed the matter with those gathered on the borders at their call.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, who also maintained that unions have rejected the government’s offer, said the tractor parade will be held as planned on January 26.
“It will be a peaceful parade. In case any untoward incident is reported it will be the responsibility of the government,” he said.
Following speculations of divisions, it is now being said henceforth only designated leaders (which include Rajewal) will be authorised to speak to media.
Sources also indicated “differences” among Punjab unions. While some said the offer should be taken up, the majority ruled against scaling down of the agitation against what they called as “tactical move by the government to break the agitation”.
Joginder Singh Ugrahan of BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) later said “full repeal of three central farm acts and enacting a legislation for remunerative MSP was reiterated as the pending demands of the movement and the same will also be communicated to union ministers tomorrow.
“The government is trying to delay the matter under the absurd pretext of suspending the laws for a year and a half but farmers will not relent without repealing them. The Narendra Modi government is testing the patience of farmers. Why should we agree to the proposal of suspending the laws,” he questioned.
SKM, which paid homage to farmers who died in the movement, said their “sacrifice will not go in vain. We will not go back without the repealing of these farm laws”.
BJP leader RP Singh, meanwhile, called this “my way or the highway” attitude “not good”.
Earlier, the unions also rejected the Delhi Police’s proposal to shift the tractor parade on January 26 from Outer Ring Road.
“The peaceful movement is a people’s movement. Farmers are uniting for Republic Day through rallies in many parts of the country, including in Karnataka, Kerala,” Dashan Pal said.
Ahead of the meeting with union ministers, unions held several round of talks to devise strategy on the Centre’s proposal. While the normally voluble leaders played close to heart, sources indicated “lack of consensus” and “divisions” among Punjab unions on the government’s offer.
“During the meeting of the Punjab unions, though maximum leaders were in the mood to refuse the government’s proposal, some insisted they should be considered,” a farmer leader said on the condition of the anonymity.
“The agitation is now a people’s movement, so while some ‘jathebandis’ were in favour of the proposal, they had to relent to those vehemently against it. It was a difficult decision, there were heated discussions. We also consulted those gathered on the borders,” he added.
Meanwhile, Yogendra Yadav, convener of Jai Kisan Andolan, who chaired the national meeting of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, said there was no voting on the Centre’s proposal and all have rejected it unanimously.
He said there was some confusion in Punjab unions’ meeting. Some leaders suggested in the meeting that “if government offers to suspend these laws for three years, then we have to consider the proposal”. On this suggestion there was voting but majority of them refused the suggestions, he added.
Sources, however, said there was voting at the meeting of the 32 Punjab unions. “While 17 of the 32 Punjab unions voted for rejection, 15 unions said it should be accepted.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court-appointed committee, which has set-up a portal for farmers where they can share their views about the three farm laws, today met 10 farmer unions from eight states.