THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 27 NOVEMBER, 2020
Dilli Chalo: Why Are Tens of Thousands of Farmers Marching to Delhi?
“The central government should understand the anger"
Tens of thousands of farmers, facing tear gas, lathi charges and water cannons at state borders, are continuing their march to the capital in protest against the recently passed agricultural reform laws, and are expected to reach the Delhi border by today evening.
"It is expected that more than 50,000 farmers will be standing at the Delhi border by today evening. The numbers are expected to swell through the night as thousands of tractors and trolleys are carrying farmers, women and children from interior areas of Punjab," said a statement released by Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a coordination body set up for the ‘Dilli Chalo’ march and All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, an umbrella organisation of various farmer unions.
As per latest reports, the Delhi Police has given permission to protesting farmers to enter Delhi and hold “peaceful protests” in Nirankari Ground in Burari area.
Over 500 farmer organisations responded to the “Dilli Chalo’ call issued for November 26 and 27, from states surrounding Delhi—including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan—but met with stiff opposition and heavy police deployment at the Haryana state border.
Ashok Dhawale, President of All India Kisan Sabha, stated, “It is very unfortunate that the BJP state government in Haryana tried their best to stop this.”
“This has been going on for two days. Haryana’s BJP government arrested over 100 workers two days ago. Yesterday, when farmers from Punjab and Haryana began their march toward Delhi, they (police) started using tear gas shells and water cannons,” he said, adding, “The BJP government has tried to murder democracy.”
Haryana, seemingly determined to stop the farmers from crossing into Delhi, has reportedly dug trenches at various points near the state border. Sand-laden trucks, barbed wires and barricades have been used to bar the farmers’ way.
Yesterday, farmers marching from Punjab clashed with the police at the Haryana state border, facing lathi charges and water cannons. NDTV reported a similar scene at the Haryana-Delhi border today morning with tear gas and lathi charges, along with various other tactics, being used to deter farmers.
However, thousands of protestors have reportedly broken through barriers and are attempting to enter Delhi at various points along the border. Reports claim the farmers plan to reach Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan and stage demonstrations there.
“The farmers would have peacefully come to Delhi,” Dhawale told The Citizen, explaining that large farmer demonstrations have been organised in the past as well and were conducted peacefully.
“Over one lakh farmers have come to Delhi in November 2018 as part of the Kisan Mukti March. Since there was no Corona then, people had come from across the country. Over one lakh people protested peacefully in Delhi then. This time too, they would have done the same,” he said.
Reports state that farmers heading towards Delhi do not intend to return home any time soon and are travelling with tractors, supplies of food and warm blankets.
"We have enough ration for two and a half to three months," NDTV quoted a farmer travelling from Punjab as saying. "There is a 5,000 litre tank, gas stove, inverter, every facility you can think of. We have mattresses, quilts, enough vegetables," he said.
The Indian Express quoted a protestor: “We have enough supplies to camp in Delhi for at least six months. We are ready to spend all winter in the capital, until the Centre listens to our legitimate demands and withdraws the farm laws.”
Dhawale confirmed to The Citizen that the farmer protests will continue till the new laws are not withdrawn. “Till these laws are not repealed, the farmers’ protests will continue, in Delhi and across the country,” he said.
“There is immense anger among the farmers of the country against these three laws,” he continued. The three contentious farm reform laws, passed by the Parliament in September this year, have become the focus of massive protests by opposition parties and farmer unions.
First, The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill will allow farmers to sell their produce outside government-authorised APMC mandis without paying state taxes or fees. Second, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill will facilitate contract farming, allowing farmers to enter into direct agreements with retailers or agri-businesses to sell their produce at predetermined prices.
The third, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, removes cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes among others from the essential commodities list, removing limits on stock-holding of these specified items, except in extraordinary circumstances.
While the government claims that the three new laws will remove middlemen, ensure better prices due to heightened competition and result in increased private sector investment in agricultural infrastructure and processing, farmers view the new laws as a threat to their livelihoods.
They fear that price control will be placed in the hands of corporates, reducing farmer earnings as well as their negotiating powers. With the ‘Dilli Chalo’ march, farmers are therefore demanding that the Centre scrap the three laws and introduce a bill guaranteeing minimum support price (MSP) for farm produce.
Dhawale told The Citizen that along with passing the three “anti-farmer” bills, the central government also passed four “anti-worker” bills in the form of labour codes the very next week. “These seven laws will benefit whom? Our national and international corporate lobbies,” he alleged.
He further added that farmers across the country joined workers in protest yesterday, November 26, as part of the nationwide strike called for by various worker and trade unions. Farmers protested along with workers from various sectors against both farmer and worker laws.
“The media attention was on repression by the Haryana government. This is why there wasn’t too much media attention given to the lakhs of farmers who came out on the roads. But it happened on a large scale,” he said.
With thousands of farmers scheduled to reach Delhi today, Dhawale noted, “Today we have to see what the Central government does.”
“Our demand is to allow them to enter Delhi. Let them protest peacefully,” he told The Citizen. “The central government should understand the anger of the farmers and not try and repress any further. This is a clear demand of ours.”
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