The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmers unions, held a Kisan Mahapanchayat in Lucknow on Monday, and repeated six demands made in anopen letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including a law guaranteeing minimum support price (MSP) for crops and the arrest of Union minister of state for home Ajay Mishra Teni, whose son Ashish Mishra is the main accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence on October 3.
The Mahapanchayat was organised days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an address to the nation on November 19, announced the repeal of three contentious farm laws against which farmers have been protesting since last November.
“The Prime Minister need not say sorry, rather he must assure us of a law on MSP. The government claims they have formed committee on MSP, but this is a lie. A report of a committee in 2011 recommended that the MSP must be guaranteed. We don’t want another committee, we want you to implement the recommendation of the previous committee,” said Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait from the stage amidst a wave of applause, referring to a 2011 recommendation by a committee. The committee, Tikait claimed, was headed by then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and had recommended a law to guarantee MSP.
Experts have warned that a guaranteed MSP would result in food inflation.
“The arrest of Ajay Mishra Teni is our important demand,” Tikait added. He went on to warn that if Ajay Mishra Teni inaugurates a sugar mill in Lakhimpur, then farmers will take their sugarcane meant for the mill to the office of the district magistrate.
Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra is the prime accused in the Tikunia violence in Lakhimpur Kheri where eight people, including four farmers and a journalist, were killed. Ashish Mishra is currently in jail. Family members of three of the four farmers killed in the Tikunia violence also attended the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Lucknow. The Mishra’s have denied their involvement in the incident.
At least 5,000 farmers from parts of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Haryana reached Lucknow for the mahapanchayat in trains, buses, tractors and private vehicles, according to farmer group leaders.
“We are farmers, we don’t understand politics but we will not allow anyone to take over the land of our ancestors, be it the BJP or some corporation,” said Sukdeep Singh, a farmer who drove down from Rudrapur in Uttarakhand to attend the mahapanchayat.
Tikait reiterated that the farmers’ protest will continue till their demands are fulfilled.
“I have not announced an end to the struggle. The struggle of farmers will continue in the coming days till the government hears our demands and acts upon them,” said Tikait.
People familiar with the matter said the Union cabinet is likely to sign off on the repeal of the laws this week.
Speaking before Tikait, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav said, “I have been saying that the farm laws are dead but we are waiting for the death certificate of these laws.”
Yadav further said, “PM talks of penance but the real penance is done by farmers who laid down their lives during the protest. For those farmers, we will not end our protest till the law on MSP is passed by the government.”
More than a dozen senior farm leaders from North India attended the Mahapanchayat.
The six demands mentioned by the farmers in their letter to the PM are: MSP to every farmer for their entire crop, withdrawal of Electricity Amendment Bill 2020/2021, remove penal provisions for farmer in pollution law, withdraw cases lodged against farmers, the resignation and arrest of Ajay Mishra Teni and compensation for families of 700 farmers who have lost their lives during the course of the protest.
“After PM’s announcement on withdrawal of farm laws, none should have any confusion about how much this government is sensitive towards the farmers. The welfare of genuine farmers was and would always be a top priority of the Modi and Yogi governments,” BJP leader Navin Srivastava said.
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