Rajat Sharma

My advice to farmers: Amend farm laws, give them a try, then agitate if you are not happy

akb0611Political parties are actively working behind the scenes in the ongoing farmers’ agitation which has entered its 55th day today. A coalition of anti-Modi activists is using the farmers to promote its agenda. On Monday, there was news of a rift among farmer leaders. A farmer leader from Bharatiya Kisan Union in Haryana, Gurnam Singh Chaduni was suspended by Samyukta Kisan Morcha. There were efforts for reconciliation and by the evening, the suspension was withdrawn.

There are signs of cracks in unity among the farmer leaders that have started showing in the last 24 hours. Chaduni and another farmer leader from Madhya Pradesh, Shiv Kumar Kakkaji made scathing remarks against each other. A local media quoted Kakkaji as alleging that Chaduni had taken Rs 10 crore to topple Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s government in Haryana, but Kakkaji later denied making such allegation. Chaduni, on his part, described Kakkaji as “an RSS agent”.

Later Chaduni clarified that he had organized a meeting of 11 political parties, including Congress and AAP, at the Constitution Club in Delhi, attended by political leaders, in his personal capacity, and would not do so in future. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha issued a statement on Monday evening and said that it was not associated with the meeting of political parties called by Chaduni. The Morcha said it has set up a committee to inquire into the matter. It clarified that it will not have direct engagement with any political party, though any organization or party was free to extend support to the movement.

Non-political farmer leaders say, they scrupulously followed the norm of not allowing flags of political parties to flutter at their agitation site, nor did they allow any political leader a platform to address them, but Congress and Left leaders consistently tried to infiltrate the movement. These political parties managed to convince some of the farmer leaders that they would win only if they do not accept any offer from the government. When pictures of Chaduni sitting with Haryana Congress leaders appeared in public, other farmer leaders objected and called for the seven-member apex meeting of farm leaders, in which a resolution was passed to suspend Chaduni. It was also decided that Chaduni will not be allowed to accompany the farmers’ delegation to the tenth round of talks with the Centre. There were rumours that Chaduni had sealed a deal with Congress leaders by taking money to topple Khattar government in Haryana.

Soon after his suspension, Chaduni alleged that Kakkaji has been sent by the RSS as a mole to create rift in the farmers’ agitation and that there were hardly 100 farmers in his organization. He threatened to send a defamation notice to the newspaper which published Kakkaji’s allegation that he was offered a ticket by Congress party.

Chaduni’s ire towards Kakkaji was because the latter was heading the seven-member committee that suspended him. In the evening, Kakkaji, in a video message, denied that he ever made the remark about Chaduni taking Rs 10 crore from Congress party. It should be noted that Kakkaji was supported by another BKU leader Rakesh Tikait who said that the decision to suspend Chaduni was taken by the committee.

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar reacted to the development saying that his allegation that Congress was behind farmers’ agitation has now been proved true, but “these black deeds will never succeed and they will not be able to topple my government. Such people will be exposed in public. Neither will my government fall, nor shall I lose my temper”. Khattar was to address a kisan mahapanchayat in Karnal last week but it was disrupted by farmers led by Chaduni.

The Congress was expecting support from Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal to topple Khattar government, but Chautala refused to play ball. On Monday, Dushyant Chautala said, that there must be no doubt that a solution will be found out to the current impasse and there was no danger to the Haryana government. “Our government will surely complete five years”, he added.

Meanwhile, on Monday, farmers carried out a rehearsal of their January 26 tractor rally near Singhu border, and said that they would take out their rally on Delhi’s Outer Ring Road. Another rehearsal of tractor rally was done on Chandigarh-Punjab border. In Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh, more than 500 tractors took part in a five km long rally. The Chief Justice of India S. A. Bobde said on Monday that the decision to allow the tractor rally rests with Delhi Police. A top level official of Delhi Police met the farmer leaders on Monday and discussed their plans.

Already, anti-national elements are active to lower India’s image taking advantage of the farmers’ agitation. Khalistani elements, in collusion with Pakistan, have promised to give rewards to those who can disrupt Republic Day Parade at Rajpath.

I have full faith in the nationalist credentials of our farmer leaders. They have full faith in the Tricolour, they are patriotic and will never join hands with anti-Indian forces. I am more worried about the rift that has developed among farm leaders. They are no more talking about farm issues, but devoting more time to speak on political matters. They are finger pointing at who owes allegiance to the Congress, to AAP, to RSS and to Akali Dal. Some are vowing to topple Khattar government and some are blindly opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Most of the leaders and activists, who are opposed to Modi, have now come under a single umbrella. Some of them have come out in the open and others are active behind the scenes. They are least bothered to think over whether the farmer leaders’ insistence on repeal of the three farm laws is justified or not. Some of them have been saying that since most of the farmers sitting on dharna are Sikhs, the issue is now related to religious concerns. Some others say the government made a mistake by saying that many of the agitating farmers were pro-Khalistan. Some leaders say the raids on commission agents (adhatiya) and the NIA interrogation of several farmer leaders were not correct steps.

But nobody is willing to acknowledge that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who himself tried his best to remove all misgivings from the minds of farmers. No senior BJP leader levelled the allegation that the farmer leaders were pro-Khalistan. On the contrary, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has said that it would be wrong to describe the farmer leaders as Khalistani. The police, on its part, maintained maximum restraint. All these questions are now meaningless. The Centre is still ready to amend any of the provisions mentioned in the three farm laws and the farm leaders must accept this offer.

My take on this is: let there be amendments to the laws to assuage the feelings of farmers, and give the three laws a try for a certain period. If the laws do not prove beneficial for the farmers, there is always the option for farmers to resume agitation. Today, it is essential that no political leader must be allowed to gain undue advantage from the pains and miseries of the farmers.

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