'BJP is trying to divide farmers into big and small'

Farmers are united, BJP is trying to divide them into big and small: Rakesh Tikait

'This agitation will continue till the time the government agrees to talk to the farmers to resolve our issues and concerns'

Rakesh Tikait. Credit: DH graphic

Rakesh Tikait of the Bhartiya Kisan Union has emerged as the face of the farmers’ agitation against the three farm laws. Tikait accuses Prime Minister Narendra Modi of dividing the farming community by talking about the welfare of small farmers. Tikait, in an interview with Sagar Kulkarni of DH dismissed the minimum support price (MSP) announced by the Centre for Rabi crops, contending that the MSP remains only on paper.

The farmers’ agitation will complete 10 months soon. Where do you see the protests going?

We have nothing to see or plan. It is for the government to respond. Farmers have been camping in protest to put forth its demands. The government is not ready to listen. So, the responsibility lies with the government.

Muzaffarnagar Kisan Mahapanchayat drew a huge crowd. Do you think the gathering has breathed new life into the agitation?

Muzaffarnagar saw a big gathering. More than 20 lakh people attended the Mahapanchayat. The government should take note of it. If 20 lakh people are gathering against the government, it should get the message. Such meetings will be held across the state in the coming days and months. There will be more such meetings. Some will be small, others will be large. We will go to the people, we will also go to the villages.

The government says you are indulging in politics under the garb of raising farmers’ issues...

Do you expect the government to speak in our favour? It is the job of the government to level allegations against us. Let it level allegations.

BJP leaders also claim that the agitation will last only till the elections?

Will the government dictate everything? This agitation will continue till the time the government agrees to talk to the farmers to resolve our issues and concerns. The agitation will continue.

Will you contest elections? A section of the farmer leaders such as Gurnam Singh Chaduni of BKU Haryana appears keen on contesting elections.

We will not contest elections. If some leaders want to contest elections, like Chaduni, let them contest.

Have there been any efforts from either side to resume the talks?

Our last meeting happened on January 22. There have been no talks after that. Our demand is the same even today — the three farm laws should be repealed.

After Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat, BJP has been alleging that Tikait and other farmer leaders have resorted to appeasement of Muslims...

Right now, the Constitution grants us the right to raise slogans, follow every form of worship. Will the political parties tell us which slogans to raise? These people are trying to divide the nation, we are working towards uniting the nation.

Have the wounds of the 2013 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar healed over the past eight years?

The riots were engineered. It was a conspiracy of the BJP. We are working for the unity of the people. The riots were not targeted at a particular caste. Everyone is together now. There is unity among all farmers’ organisations in the region.

Do you think Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s ‘abba jaan’ remarks are fresh attempts to polarise the electorate ahead of elections?

Polarisation is their sole purpose. Through such statements, they want to take the nation back on the beaten track. Their only intention is how to garner votes. They keep on fooling the people, they play with the sentiments of the people. Any nation where religion plays a dominant role in politics has never progressed.

A section of the BJP believes that farmers, at least in western Uttar Pradesh, can be won over by giving adequate price for the sugarcane crop this coming season...

This agitation is not limited to western Uttar Pradesh. It has found resonance across the country. If farmers get proper support prices, the entire country will benefit. Sugarcane is just one crop. This agitation is not for a single crop, this is for the entire nation.

Since Uttar Pradesh elections are viewed as a semi-final to the Lok Sabha polls, there is a focus on farmers of western Uttar Pradesh...

Our fight is for farmers across the country. The government may have its own approach to issues.

The Rabi MSP was announced recently. Do you feel it was adequate?

The increase in MSP is only on paper. The farmers will benefit only when they get the promised returns. This can be ensured only through an appropriate law that guarantees MSP to the farmer.

Do you think farmers can claim partial victory if the government brings a law that guarantees MSP to farmers?

No. There are three clear demands. First, roll back the three farm laws. Second, enact a law that guarantees MSP to farmers, and third, set up a committee of farmers’ organisations and the government to take decisions on issues related to agriculture. Once these three demands are agreed to, the agitation will end.

Recently, the prime minister said that his government will stand with the small farmers, who constitute 86% of the total farmers in the country. The BJP also dismisses your agitation as backed by middlemen or arthiyas...

Is Modi the prime minister only of small farmers? These people only work towards dividing the nation. They divide the farmers into big and small. Give the guarantee that the crops grown by the small farmers will be bought at MSP.

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