Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait on Friday questioned allegations of an international conspiracy hijacking their protests over the centre’s new agricultural laws, saying the government had to take back the reforms that were not designed to help the growers.
“What is the problem in taking back the laws? When they weren’t brought with the farmers’ consent, he doesn’t want the laws, why bring the laws in the first place? They should be taken back and replaced with a law on MSP (Minimum Support Price)?” he told NDTV in an interview.
“We are just protesting. Are we doing anything else? We have nothing to do with politics. We have never told anyone who they should vote for. Farmers have to pay the highest rate of interest – 350 per cent. Rs 10,000 per night for a loan of Rs 1 lakh. Who do we go to with these problems?” he said.
Responding to authorities who have strived to paint protesters as sponsored by separatists who want a Sikh state called Khalistan, the influential farmers’ leader from Western Uttar Pradesh rubbished charges that their movement aimed to defame India.
“What international conspiracy? What defamation? If farmers are asking for the right price for their produce, is it defaming India? If there was a law on MSP, farmers would be getting the right price. The real conspiracy is that in the absence of MSP, there is a free hand to rob farmers,” he said.
Speaking about his move to plant flowers earlier in the day at one of the protest sites alongside the heavy barricading aimed at cutting off the demonstrators, Mr Tikait said, “They will plant nails, we will grow flowers. This is a symbol of peace.”
Thousands of farmers have camped at three large protest sites on the outskirts of Delhi since November, saying that the new laws must be withdrawn as they believe they will take away their guaranteed earnings and leave them at the mercy of corporates. Several rounds of talks with the government have failed to end the protest.
After violence during a tractor parade on January 26, the police stepped up their crackdown on farmers and defended the excessive border fortification – compared by opposition leaders to the India-Pakistan border – saying it was necessary to prevent a repeat of the Republic Day chaos.
Earlier in the day, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told parliament that the protests over farm laws are limited to only “one state” and farmers are being “instigated” in a hint at Congress-ruled Punjab.
“Farmer unions, opposition parties have failed to point out a single flaw in three new farm laws,” he claimed in the upper house, adding that the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are committed to the welfare of farmers.
“We are not standing on prestige. We have been asking what is black in this law and no one is forthcoming,” Mr Tomar said, reiterating the centre’s stand.