Farm Protests: Agitators reject panel constituted by the Supreme Court

New Delhi: Agitating farmers’ unions have rejected the Supreme Court move to set up a four-member committee to review the farm laws. The unions said that the panel comprised members who ‘supported’ the laws and alleged it was an ‘attempt to release pressure on the government’.

“All names in the committee have been totally in favour of the laws. Even if people opposed to the laws were in the committee, or if the SC changes the composition tomorrow, we will not agree. The move is to put our agitation into a deep freezer. We are here for an indefinite protest. The names show the government doesn’t want the laws to be repealed,” said Jagmohan Singh, one of the farmers’ representatives. When asked if not appearing before the committee could violate the SC order, Balbir Singh Rajewal said: “We never asked the SC for a committee or put any application for the same before the SC.”

Farmer unions said panel members, Bhupinder Singh Mann of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, Shetkari Sanghatana president Anil Ghanwat and agricultural economists Ashok Gulati and Parmod Kumar Joshi had endorsed the laws through newspaper articles. Mann and Ghanwat had also sent a memorandum to agriculture minister NS Tomar, last month, saying they favoured the laws with certain amendments. Mann, a former Rajya Sabha MP and a Punjab farmer leader, is not part of the 41 farmer leaders in talks with the government. The Shetkari Sanghatana, founded by the late Sharad Joshi had for long advocated liberalising the agricultural sector, they said.

Darshan Pal said farmers appreciated the SC stay on the farm laws and it upholding democratic rights of farmers to protest. Rajewal said that by staying the laws, SC has, in a way, admitted that the laws were wrong. “We are speaking to Parliament representatives who made the laws, so why should an outside committee come in between? We will go to the meeting with ministers on January 15, as scheduled. Parliament can go ahead and discuss the matter,” Pal said. Jagmohan Singh said the laws were made by the government and it should repeal them. Farmers do not want to shift the onus or divert the issue as their fight is with the government. “SC can suo-moto repeal the laws if it wants to,” he said.

SC had appealed to the unions to send the aged, women and children home but Rajewal said no one was willing to leave protest spots till the laws were repealed. He said the ‘tractor march’ on Republic Day would be completely peaceful but rumours were being spread that farmers would storm Delhi and move to Red Fort or Parliament. “We will decide our plan after January 15. Farmers arriving from other states must be prepared for peaceful protest. We will never tolerate violence,” Rajewal said. On the government’s claim that it would furnish proof of Khalistani infiltration, Pal said the government had been unsuccessfully making such allegations since day one to divide farmers. Rajewal said their lawyers did not appear in SC on Tuesday as the cause list showed the matter was up for orders and not for discussion.

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