Farmers camping at the UP Gate since last November celebrated with sweets and termed their year-long agitation against the three controversial farm laws a ‘victory’ after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced that the Union government has decided to repeal the laws passed by the Parliament in 2020. However, they reiterated that their protest will continue till the laws are not completely repealed.
Farmers at the UP Gate have been occupying portions of the Ghaziabad-Delhi carriageways on National Highway 9 for almost a year, and put up hundreds of tents at the protest site demanding roll back of the three farm laws and a law to guarantee minimum support price (MSP) for a range of crops.
Hundreds of farmers at the UP Gate protest site, mostly from districts in western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Uttarakhand, have been preparing for a march to Delhi on November 29 ahead of the next Parliament session.
Soon after the announcement on Friday, there was an exodus of farmers rushing to the protest site at UP Gate, said leaders of farm unions.
Groups of young farmers also took rounds of the UP Gate in their tractors while waving the tricolour and chanting slogans of “Bharat mata ki Jai, kisan ekta zindabad.”
Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of all farm unions, issued a statement soon after the PM’s address.
“Samyukta Kisan Morcha welcomes this decision and will wait for the announcement to take effect through due parliamentary procedures. If this happens, it will be a historic victory of the one-year long farmers’ struggle in India. However, nearly 700 farmers have been martyred in this struggle. The central government’s obstinacy is responsible for these avoidable deaths,” said the statement.
“SKM also reminds the Prime Minister that the agitation of farmers is not just for the repeal of the three black laws, but also for a statutory guarantee of remunerative prices for all agricultural produce and for all farmers,” it added.
Jagtar Singh Bajwa, a farmer leader from Uttarakhand and a spokesperson of SKM, rushed to the UP Gate on Friday. “It is indeed a victory for the farmers, and about 700 of them who gave their lives to the cause of this agitation. The PM’s announcement has come on the day of Prakash Utsav (Guru Nanak’s birthday) and it is a welcome step. However, we will still wait and watch till the laws finally get repealed. Moreover, a law on minimum support price (MSP) should be passed. The SKM will decide the future course of action in the coming days but for now, the protest will continue.”
“The government is feeling the heat of the sustained agitation by the farmers.The decision has come ahead of the assembly elections scheduled to be held in several states next year. There should also be discussions on withdrawing the FIRs registered against farmers and the benefits that will be extended to the families of those who lost their lives during the agitation,” said Bajwa.
The decision to repeal the three farm laws comes months before several states–Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand where there is an opposition to the farm laws–hold the assembly elections due next year.
Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), and one of the principal leaders of the protesting farmers, said the agitation will not be called off anytime soon. “We will wait for the day when the farm laws are rolled back in the Parliament. The government should talk to farmers on the issues of MSP…” he tweeted.
There have been multiple rounds of talks between the government and the farm unions, but none since January 22 this year, after which both sides have taken a strong stand on the question of repealing the farm laws.
Sardar V M Singh, a prominent farmer leader who heads the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, which moved out of UP Gate in January after a tractor march to Delhi turned violent on the occasion of Republic Day , said there had to be some guarantee on MSP.
“This agitation, however long it lasts, should result to something that benefits farmers. An ordinance (what ordinance) came in June 2020 and crops, such as wheat, dhan, makka, etc., were then going at a rate of 30-40% below the MSP. The government should give some guarantee on MSP. If the guarantee would have been given, there would have been no need for the three farm laws,” said Singh.
In his address to the nation on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the MSP will be made more robust and transparent, and a committee will be constituted to take decisions on the matter.
Some farmer leaders at the UP Gate protest site viewed the development as a “political compulsion”.
“The decision has come ahead of the assembly elections in UP. It shows that the government is feeling the heat of the farmers’ sustained agitation for almost a year. The decision of the PM is welcome but we will wait to see it turn into a reality,” said Prabal Pratap Singh, spokesperson for BKU (Asli).
However, Chandra Mohan, spokesperson and state secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Uttar Pradesh, refuted the claims of the PM’s announcement coming in the wake of the assembly elections
“The statements have come from none other than the Prime Minister. The condition of the opposition in Uttar Pradesh is evident to all. The BJP is committed to farmers’ welfare and the statements coming from the PM shows that farmers’ welfare is his top priority,” said Mohan.
Gathering to swell at UP-Gate border
Many farmers rushed to the UP Gate protest site to celebrate their ‘victory’ in the ongoing agitation after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repeal of the three farm laws on Friday morning.
Officials of the Ghaziabad police said the gathering at the UP Gate will swell further and that they are keeping an eye over the development. “Many farmers, who went home, have started thronging the protest site at UP Gate to be with the protestors. It is expected that the gathering will swell further and we are keeping an eye over the development. We are in regular touch with farmer leaders; our personnel will continue to man the protest site,” said Gyanendra Kumar Singh, superintendent of police (city 2).
Police estimate currently, there are 400 to 500 farmers camping at the UP Gate protest site.
Farmer leader Bajwa said more farmers will join. “It is a victory for farmers. They want to be with the protesting farmers as a mark of celebration. More farmers will arrive here,” he added.
Commuters want route be opened now
Meanwhile, daily commuters are upbeat about the development but are apprehensive as to when normal movement of vehicles will resume on National Highway 9. They also demanded that farmers should vacate the protest site after the PM himself announced a repeal of the farm laws.
“When the PM himself has announced to roll back the farm laws, farmers too should cooperate and vacate the UP Gate protest site in the interest of daily commuters. It is almost a year that commuters are having to take alternate routes for their daily commute,” said Alok Kumar, a resident of Arihant Harmony, Indirapuram.
The farmers’ protest at UP Gate has led thousands of daily commuters to take alternate routes to enter Delhi. A huge volume of traffic also passes through the Kaushambi Township near the Anand Vihar-Kaushambi border.
“We see the development as a welcome sign, but we think that there is no immediate relief coming our way. Thousands of vehicles pass through the township every day. We will wait for the developments and hope the farmers’ issues get resolved soon, so that commuters don’t have to suffer,” said V K Mittal, president of the Kaushambi township Residents’ Welfare Association (Karwa).
Recently in October, the Delhi police removed barricades from the UP-Gate but the farmers continued with their protest.