'Farmers are camping at Delhi borders not for holiday'

Farmers camping at Delhi borders not for holiday, but to seek answers from govt: Hannan Mollah

Farmers at Singhu border during their protest against the Centre's new farm laws, in New Delhi, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. Credit: PTI Photo

Farmers camping at various Delhi borders are here not for a "holiday" but to seek answers from the Centre to their grievances, farmer leader Hannan Mollah said on Sunday as he criticised the government for a lack of response to their proposal for talks on December 29.

Farmer groups protesting against the Centre's three farm laws have proposed a meeting with the government at 11 am on December 29, but they are yet to receive any response from the government, he claimed. Previously, five rounds of talks between the farmer unions and the government have failed to break the deadlock.

"Thousands of farmers who are bearing the winter chill and have gathered at the borders are not here for a holiday. The government till now said that we did not want a meeting, now that we have specifically told them when, where and what of the meeting, there is no response from them. Now, it is for the people to decide who are liars. We acknowledge that there cannot be a resolution without a dialogue with the government," the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) general secretary said.

Mollah said the farmer unions have proposed four specific talking points for the December 29 meeting -- the government stating the procedure for repealing three farm laws, procedure to make minimum support price (MSP) for crops a legal right, release of Punjab farmers arrested in pollution-related cases, and repeal of the Electricity Amendment Bill.

"While there is no response from the government, they are busy pushing an agenda on the movement which was never ours to start with. Out of the 500 organisations which are part of the farmer struggle, around 10-11 would be Left-leaning. They want the people to believe that crores of people are responding to the call of the Left parties? If this were true, then we would have a revolution," the 76-year-old leader, who is also a CPI(M) politburo member, told PTI.

Mollah was an eight-term MP from West Bengal's Uluberia constituency.

However, despite his political links, he has a reputation of reviving and aiding farmer protests and movements across the country and has been part of the protests against the land acquisition law and the farmers' stir in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh.

He has now emerged as one of the most prominent faces of the farmer agitation against the three controversial agri-marketing legislations.

While the government has attacked the Left parties for supporting and misusing the farmer protests for their own agenda, Mollah and the other farmer leaders have strongly refuted the charge.

Mollah alleged that these lies were being spread by the government to isolate the movement and said that no political party was ever part of the farmer protests, nor were they ever consulted over it.

"The government is talking like the grandson of Goebbels (Joseph Goebbels was a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany).... Quote me on this. We have repeatedly said that we have not allowed any political party to drive our protest. No political party was consulted when we launched the movement.This is just a way to isolate the Kisan movement in front of the people," he said.

Asked if after months of struggle there is a sense of hopelessness and inertia creeping in among the protesting farmers and their leaders, Mollah said that the movement was driven by the common farmers and the leaders were following them, not the other way round.

"The farmers have come ready to sit here for the next six months. If any leader even asked them to move, he will probably be lynched. They have decided to go home after achieving what they want. However, at the end of the day, we are fighting a government machinery and the poor can only fight, they can't do anything else," he said.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and some other states have been protesting at various border points of Delhi against the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of Minimum Support Price and do away with the mandi system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

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