Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has lashed out at the central government over its treatment of farmers agitating against its controversial new farms laws.
Mr Raut said it was an insult that farmers – thousands of whom have braved brutish attacks by police over the past four days to march to the national capital to protest “anti-farmer” laws – were being “treated like terrorists” and labelled “Khalistani”.
“The way farmers have been stopped from entering Delhi… it looks as if they do not belong to this country. They have been treated like terrorists. Since they are Sikh and come from Punjab or Haryana, they are called Khalistani. It is an insult to farmers,” Mr Raut was quoted by news agency ANI.
On Thursday farmers from several states, including UP, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Punjab, began marching to Delhi armed with food, fuel and essential supplies for six months – a clear indication that they are in this struggle for the long haul.
While crossing BJP-ruled Haryana, they were met with lathi charges, tear gas and water cannons. Roads were dug up, barbed-wire barricades set up and sand-laden trucks parked to stop them.
Undeterred the farmers finally reached the Delhi border on Friday morning, and have since set up camp at various spots around the national capital’s outskirts.
Mr Raut was joined by Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP boss Mayawati – both former chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh – in attacking the centre over its handling of the situation.
Mr Yadav slammed the BJP for “humiliating the farmers by calling them terrorists” and alleged that the ruling party’s actions were “a conspiracy… (to) support the rich”. “If the BJP says the farmers are terrorists, the party should swear they will not consume produce grown by farmers,” he said.
Mayawati warned the centre to reconsider its stand on the farm laws. She said the government should, instead, consult with the farmers and reframe the legislation.
This evening a delegation of protesting farmers from Punjab rejected Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s offer to open talks, citing the pre-condition – that they move protests to a different location.
The farmers said they feared getting trapped in open air jails; Delhi Police, which is controlled by the centre, had earlier suggested stadiums be converted to jails.
The Arvind Kejriwal government, however, turned down that proposal.
This morning Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his monthly radio address, repeated his statement that the laws had “unshackled” the farmers – comments farmers themselves view with skepticism, as they have his verbal assurances that the government practice of MSP will continue.
They are protesting new laws the centre says will reform the sector by removing middlemen and improving farmers’ earnings by allowing them to sell produce anywhere in the country.
Farmers and opposition parties allege that the laws will deprive the farmers of guaranteed minimum price for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporates.
With input from ANI