Tribune News Service
Chandigarh/New Delhi, November 29
Farmers protesting against the Centre's three farm laws on Sunday decided not to shift to the Burari ground in the National Capital and stay put at the Delhi borders.
Thousands of farmers continued to protest at the Singhu and Tikri borders on the fourth consecutive day on Sunday.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah had on Saturday appealed to the farmers to shift to the Sant Nirankari ground in Burari that was offered to them for peaceful protests and said the Centre was ready to hold discussions with them as soon as they move to the designated place.
“We have decided that we will stay put at the Delhi borders. We will not go to Burari,” Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) president Buta Singh Burjgill said over the phone.
The decision was taken by representatives of several farmer organisations, he said.
Farmer leader Harmeet Singh Kadian, who is the president of BKU (Kadian), too said that the protesters will not shift to the Burari ground.
Reacting to the Union home minister's appeal, Kadian told reporters near the Singhu border that the Centre should not impose any condition for holding talks with the farmers.
“We do not want any pre-condition. We want a meeting be held without any condition. We are ready for talks,” Kadian said.
Farmer leaders later said that they would continue to block roads and close off five highways as part of their protest. They also said no political party would be allowed to share stage with them.
“Had the same government that is telling us to vacate the roads received us with a big heart, farmers would not have become aggressive,” some union leaders said on Sunday evening.
Thousands of farmers meanwhile continued to hold protests at the Singhu border on National Highway 44 for the third straight day on Sunday.
Several continued to pour into the swelling crowds, and still more were expected to join them with tractor trolleys, a leader, Darshan Pal, said.
Pal, a member of the All India Kissan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) and president of Krantikari Kissan Union, said protesters had unanimously decided to stay on at at singhu as well as Tikri, both areas that border Delhi.
“Some farmers of Uttarakhand who reached at Burari ground in Delhi also reached here while UP farmers have also reached at border and stages dharna there,” he said.
The All-India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh and various factions of Bharatiya Kisan Union had given the call for the 'Delhi Chalo' march.
Farmers protesting against the Centre's three farm laws have expressed apprehension that these will pave a way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporates.
The Centre has invited several Punjab farmer organisations for another round of talks in Delhi on December 3.
Never called it political, says Amit Shah
On the defence in the face of escalating criticism his government faces, Home Minister Amit Shah claimed he never called the protests political.
“I never called farmers’ agitation political, nor do I want to say that ever. I never gave any such statement that it is a political agitation,” Shah said at a press conference in Hyderabad.
He also defended the three laws saying they were meant for the welfare of farmers.
“After a long time the farmer is going to come out of a locked system,” he said in Hyderabad.
Several BJP leaders, including Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, have called the farmers’ agitation either “political or driven by the Congress”.
'Move to Burari ground'
Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla said in a letter sent to 32 farmers organisations on Saturday that a high-level team of Union Ministers is ready to hold talks with them at the capital's Vigyan Bhavan once they move to the designated place.
The latter was sent on Saturday, the same day Union Home Minister Amit Shah promised to talk to them as soon as they shift to the ground.
In his letter in Hindi, Bhalla cited the cold conditions and the COVID-19 outbreak and said the farmers should move to the Burarai ground where adequate facilities have been made for them.
He said that the farmers' organisations have called for the 'Delhi chalo' programme on November 26 and 27 following which a large number of farmers from Punjab and other parts of the country have reached the borders of Delhi.
He said the farmers have gathered along two major highways connecting Punjab and as a result, normal life and travel of common people have been affected.
Bhalla said the farmers are also inconvenienced due to the cold, and because of the Coronavirus outbreak, there is a possibility of the spread of the virus as there is a large congregation of people.
The home secretary said keeping in mind all these issues, the central government has made arrangements for a big ground at Burari so that proper facilities could be made for the farmers.
“I request you to take all the farmers from the borders of Delhi to the ground at Burari where facilities have been created for them and they can hold their demonstration peacefully and police will permit it," he said
Bhalla said a delegation of the farmers has been invited on December 3 by the central government for detailed discussions on their problems.
“Some farmers and farmers unions have demanded that the meeting should take place earlier than December 3.
"As soon as you shift to the ground at Burari, the very next day a high-level committee of union ministers will hold talks at Vigyan Bhavan with the representatives of all farmers unions, with whom dialogue had taken place earlier,” he said in the letter.
Bhalla also said detailed discussions were held in New Delhi on November 13 regarding farmers' problems, which was attended by Union Ministers for Agriculture and Railways.
--- With PTI
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