Farmers Upbeat and Belligerent at Lucknow Mahapanchayat
Reiterate demand for dismissal and arrest of union minister Ajay Mishra Teni
LUCKNOW: The mood was upbeat as well as belligerent and if that sounds contradictory, this is exactly what the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Lucknow today was all about.
The prime minister’s decision to repeal the farm laws was downplayed even though it has been the most prominent demand of agitating farmers through the past year.
“Just because he said so, laws do not get repealed. Besides, this is just one of our demands and we are not going to celebrate over a piece meal. The plight of farmers needs to be fully addressed,” said 22-year-old Daljit who had come with his father and grandfather from Palia in Lakhimpur Kheri to attend the Mahapanchayat.
Gurpreet Kaur, 58, who came from the Haryana border said, “I have come with my sons to support the farmers. I am a farmer and have lost one brother during the agitation. His sacrifice should not go waste. We will continue till all our demands are met.”
As thousands of farmers trooped in on a cold November morning at the Eco Garden to attend, an elated BKU spokesperson Rakesh Tikait beamed, “Our movement is not going to end until all our demands are met. We will hold similar panchayats across the country and those who think that the issue is over, are sadly mistaken.”
Tikait said an MSP guarantee was their foremost demand.
“We want to make the minimum support price that is based on the formula of C2+50% (which means 50 per cent above the cost of production) as a legal right for all crops and for all farmers. In our letter, we have reminded the prime minister that it was a committee under his chair that had in 2011 recommended this to the then prime minister, and his government later announced it in the Parliament too,” said Tikait.
The farmers also raised the demand for the dismissal and arrest of union minister Ajay Mishra Teni, who is an accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident of October 3 in which four farmers were allegedly mowed down by an SUV belonging to his son Ashish Mishra. Farmer after farmer who spoke at the Mahapanchayat raised the demand for Teni’s dismissal and arrest.
The majority of the farmers at the Mahapanchayat came from Lakhimpur Kheri and the issue was close to their hearts.
“We have lost our brothers and the government shamelessly ignores our demand for the minister’s arrest. We will not let them forget this in a hurry and we will fight till the last drop of our blood,” said Raju, a relative of one of the deceased farmers Lovepreet Singh.
As the sun rose higher in the skies, so did the enthusiasm to carry forward an agitation that has now emerged as, perhaps, the largest and longest running protest in India.
“We will hold panchayats across the country till all our demands are met and the government should know this,” said Harnam Singh Verma, vice-president of the BKU's UP unit.
The protestors’ other demands include withdrawal of the Power Regulation Amendment Bill, withdrawal of all cases related to the Delhi border agitation and stubble burning, and a Shaheed Smriti Smarak (martyrs’ memorial) at the Singhu Border in memory of the farmers who lost their lives during the agitation.
Tikait also sought compensation for the deceased farmers’ families. “We also want martyrs’ status for the farmers who have died,” he said.
Today the Eco Garden turned into a sea of white, yellow and green – the colours of the flags of various farmers’ unions.
On one side of the venue, farmers – young and old and women – sat down for langar (communal dining) while young boys tirelessly served food to them and speeches continued uninterrupted at the other end.