The farmers join millions of workers in the all-India strike tomorrow, November 26. Haryana has sealed its border with Punjab. Punjab farmers’ warn they would block roads if stopped from entering Delhi.
Braving the winter cold, tens of thousands of farmers belonging to 500 farmers’ organisations are marching towards Delhi, as part of their movement Dilli Chalo to try and drive home their opposition to the three new farm laws. They hoped to be in the capital on November 26 and 27, but have been facing roadblock after roadblock.
Haryana has sealed its borders with Punjab, Delhi has not allowed them permission to enter, and today, water cannons were turned on protesting farmers in Ambala and Kurukshetra in Haryana. Unfazed farmers are braving the icy chill and the cold water, resolute in their decision to march to the national capital.
The farmers will join the 10 central trade unions going on strike on November 26. In Punjab, farmers are gathering on the border for the campaign. They have decided to block roads to the national capital if they are stopped. Police have not permitted the protests in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agrarian states of Punjab and Haryana have seen a spate of protests against the new agri laws. “Be it Corona or lockdown, it doesn’t matter to us. The farmer has to die anyhow. If the farmer is spared by Corona, the Modi government’s policies will finish him off. The march to Delhi is imminent. If stopped at the borders of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh or Rajasthan, we will camp wherever we are stopped,” Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of Punjab farmers’ group Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal), told Gaon Connection.
In protest against the three new agricultural laws relating to selling in the open market, contract farming and purchase and storage of essential commodities, farmers from several states of the country, including Punjab and Haryana, have announced a Dilli Chalo march on November 26 and 27.
Numerous farmers’ organisations and fora from different states of the country have jointly set up the Samyukt Kisan Morcha [United Farmers’ Front] to exert pressure on the Narendra Modi-led government at the centre to withdraw the three agricultural laws and enact a law on minimum support price (MSP). A meeting between union ministers and farmers’ organisations in Punjab on November 13 in Delhi was inconclusive.
Rajewal is a member of the seven-member core committee of the Morcha. Speaking to Gaon Connection over phone, he said about 500 farmers’ organisations have come together under the front.
The first meeting of this association was held on November 7 at Gurudwara Rakabganj in Delhi, while the second meeting was held in Chandigarh on November 20. The seven-member committee comprises Sardar Balbir Singh Rajewal, Shivkumar Kakaji, Sardar Jagjit Singh Dallewal, Sardar Gurnam Singh Chadhuni, Sardar VM Singh, Yogendra Yadav and Raju Shetty (or Hannan Maula in his absence).
In a statement, the forum said that on November 26, farmers from neighbouring states will reach the national capital through five routes — Amritsar-Delhi National Highway (Kundli border); Hissar-Delhi Highway (Bahadurgarh); Jaipur-Delhi Highway (Dharuhera); Bareilly-Delhi Highway (Hapur); and Agra-Delhi Highway (Ballabhgarh).
Excerpts from an interview with Balbir Singh Rajewal:
How have farmers in Punjab geared themselves for Chalo Dilli?
In the villages of Punjab, farmers have packed their tractor-trolleys with rations and other things of utility. We will reach Delhi by road. If we are stopped in Haryana [which has a BJP alliance government], we will camp on the roads and besiege Haryana. Similarly, farmers’ organisations coming from other states will also camp on the border.
How many days are you prepared to stay in Delhi for?
We are ready for the long haul. We have filled our tractor-trolleys with rations and utensils. These trolleys will be our home. We are farmers, we do not dwell in air-conditioned rooms, but live in our fields. Our demonstration will be indefinite. Neither will our ration get exhausted, nor will we return home.
What happened at the November 13 meeting?
There was no agreement on the agri bills during the meeting. We had made it clear that we were done listening to them, and that they had to listen to us now.
Will the rising Corona cases in Delhi affect the agitation?
We are not bothered by the lockdown or Corona. The farmers of Punjab do not care about Corona. You see, even if we are spared by Corona, the Modi government’s policies will kill us. The farmer has no option but to die.
It is being said that the Punjab farmers’ agitation is politically motivated. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also addressed a rally…
Our opponents can say anything. We did not share the stage with any political party. We have openly declared that political leaders can attend our protests, but under our banner and that they cannot speak. We have brushed aside all political parties, because we know that no one is pro-farmer or bothered about farmers’ issues.
What are your major demands?
All three agricultural laws must be withdrawn. A law must be passed assuring farmers MSP for their crops. The new laws must be withdrawn and the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission [National Commission Of Farmers led by MS Swaminathan] should be implemented.