New Delhi, February 9
As the call for another round of farmers’ agitation resonates, the absence of prominent faces from the 2020-21 protests paints a new picture of leadership within the movement.
Despite the non-endorsement of the ‘Dilli-Chalo’ call by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella of nearly 40 farmer and labourer associations across the country which led successful agitation in 2020-21, the next crop of farmer leaders, particularly from Punjab and Haryana, gearing up to lead the protest under the banner of SKM (non-political).
But the absence of key figures like Rakesh Tikait, Gurnam Singh Charuni, Darshan Pal Singh, Balbir Singh Rajewal, Yudhvir Singh, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Suresh Koth, Yogendra Yadav, who spearheaded the previous agitation, may create a leadership void, if the agitation gets longer, feel the farmers. However, their absence presents an opportunity for emerging leaders like Jagjit Singh Dallewal, Abhimanyu Kohar and others to take the helm.
Gurnam Singh Charuni, a pivotal figure in the 2020 protest, and Rakesh Tikait, a key leader of SKM, has not declared their support for the upcoming agitation. While Charuni openly announced his reluctance to support the call, Tikait has adopted a wait-and-watch stance, focusing instead on a Bharat Bandh on February 16.
The ground reports indicate that prominent farmer leaders are adopting a cautious approach, assessing the situation before committing their support. Despite the division, farmer and labour union leaders from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan are rallying together to ensure the success of the agitation and exert pressure on the government.
In response to the impending agitation, the government has initiated talks with a delegation of farmers, comprising Union ministers Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda, and Nityanand Rai. The talks yielded some positive outcomes, with the government agreeing to certain demands, including compensation for those injured in Lakhimpur Kheri and the cancellation of cases registered against farmers during the previous agitation.
However, farmers remain steadfast in their demands, particularly concerning the enactment of legislation to guarantee Minimum Support Price (MSP) and a comprehensive loan waiver for farmers and labourers.
SKM (non-political) leader Abhimanyu Kohar has reiterated the farmers’ resolve to continue the ‘Dilli Chalo’ call until all demands are met. “Farmers have total 12 demands. The government has said they need time to discuss all the issues with the departments concerned as well,” said Kohar, adding that if the government calls farmers for a meeting, they are ready for talks as well.
The planned Delhi march on February 13 will witness farmers from Punjab and northern districts of Haryana gathering at the Shambhu border in Ambala before marching towards Delhi. Farmers are preparing for a prolonged agitation, stocking their tractor-trolleys with essentials for an extended stay. “Farmers from Punjab and Haryana will assemble at the Shambhu border in Ambala on February 12 and march towards Delhi next day,” said Amarjeet Singh Morhi, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Shaheed Bhagat Singh), a breakaway faction of BKU (Charuni)
While the absence of prominent leaders poses a challenge, the emerging leadership is determined to steer the agitation forward. With the support of farmer and labourer associations across the country, the movement aims to compel the government to address their grievances and secure their demands by building pressure ahead of the Lok Sabha election.
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