Farmers end year-long stir after Centre accepts demands

Farmers finally end year-long agitation, to vacate protest sites by December 11

Farmers received a letter from the Government of India, with promises of forming a committee on MSP and withdrawing cases against them

Credit: Special Arrangement

Agitating farmers called on Thursday off their nearly 380-days long protest against the three contentious farm laws that were passed 15 months ago and repealed 10 days ago after the central government gave signed written assurance on an official letterhead to the protesting unions to meet their demands on issues including withdrawal of cases lodged against them during agitation and MSP.

Announcing the suspension of the ongoing agitation, which it called "historic" Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella group of 40 farmer unions said that farmers will begin vacating the protest sites from December 11 with a "victory march" but threatened to resume the agitation after January 15 if the government did not fulfil its promises.

Shiromani Akali Dal, which had walked out of NDA last year in solidarity with protesting farmers against the three contentious farm laws, said, "Though the farmers have suspended agitation, their wounds will take time to heal. Over 700 farmers died during the protest, aged people were forced to sit on protest in chilling cold and scorching summer. And then, they were tagged as Khalistanis. These wounds will take time to heal."

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi hailed the "victory of truth" in a short video on Twitter that captured moments of the year-long farm protest, which had seen events like tractor march and protest at Red Fort at the Republic Day.

"Farmers will start vacating Delhi border points from December 11 and this may take some time. I will go to my home on December 14 after going to Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) on December 13," said the face of the farmer protest Rakesh Tikait.

"We are suspending the agitation for now. It is not over yet. It can be resumed if promises are not fulfilled," said farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni at a press conference at Singhu border where the SKM announced to withdraw from the protest sites after the central government made a fresh reach out to them.

The missive on the official letterhead of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare signed by its Secretary Sanjay Agarwal addressed to SKM informed them of the government having agreed to their demands through the proposal and said, "with this proposal, all the five demands stand addressed. And hence there is no justification for continuing the farmer agitation. Hence you are requested to end the farmer protest."

Centre told the protesting farmers that the government of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have given full consent regarding withdrawing all cases lodged during farmer protest "with immediate effect".

It said that even the departments and agencies of the central government and union territories like Delhi have also given consent to withdrawal of such cases against protestors with immediate effect. "The Government of India will also appeal to other states to withdraw cases related to farmer agitation," it said.

This was two days after farmers had objected to the conditionality of withdrawal of agitation for withdrawing the cases put forth by the government initially.

"As far as compensation is concerned the governments of UP and Haryana have given their in principle consent while regarding the Parali law, the government has freed the farmers from criminal liability under its sections 14 and 15, " it said.

On MSP, the government reiterated its decision about the committee with representatives from farmer unions, agriculture scientists and others to go into their demand for legal guarantee for MSP while continuing the existing format of MSP.  

Calling it a "historic win for farmers, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka said, "We apologise to people who faced problems due to protests while another farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal thanked people for "standing with the farmers during the  agitation." Rajewal said that the fight for the rights of farmers will continue even in future even as the agitation has been suspended for the time being.

"Farmers will take out victory marches on Dec 11 to their homes," Rajewal said. "A review meeting will be convened on January 15 to see if the government met all the demands. If they do not, we can take a call on resuming the protest,” said Gurnam Singh Chaduni.

The farmer agitation had begun on November 26 against the three contentious farm laws--Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 – in September 2020.

A week before the anniversary of farmer protest this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 19 announced the decision of his government to repeal the law and the government got repealed on the very first day of Parliament's winter session on November 29.

But the agitation continued with farmers coming out with demands like legal guarantees for MSP and others after which Centre set up a committee in which SKM's five representatives were included.

The SKM panel had a discussion with the government on pending demands even on December 8. On November 9, the government sent its third and final communication on official letterhead on the agreements reached with farmer unions, paving the way for calling off the strike.

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