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Rediff.com  » News » 'They want to suffocate our voices'

'They want to suffocate our voices'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
February 23, 2024 11:04 IST
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'Farmers have been sent notices in which the government is threatening that if you will join the movement, then we will impound your whole ancestral properties.'
'We will seal your bank accounts. We will revoke the passports of your young kids.'

IMAGE: Farmers, who are marching towards New Delhi to press for better crop prices promised to them in 2021, run for cover amidst tear gas fired by the police to disperse them at the Shambhu barrier, a border crossing between Punjab and Haryana, February 21, 2024. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
 

One of the leaders at the forefront of the farmers' Delhi Chalo march is Abhimanyu Kohar.

Kohar, a BTech graduate, comes from a well-off family in Haryana's Sonepat and floated the Bharatiya Kisan Naujawan Union in 2021 soon after the Modi government repealed the three farm laws.

Earlier, Kohar -- whose Facebook X accounts have been withheld ever since the farm agitation began on February 13, 2024 -- was a regular guest on news television channels as the spokesperson of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha.

"The government wants to create a narrative that this issue is only being raised by the farmers of Punjab and Haryana by not allowing farmers from other states to reach Delhi," Abhimanyu Kohar tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.

What's the current status of your agitation?

Farmers were marching peacefully towards Delhi. But the governments of India and Haryana are firing injector mortars and tear gas shells, pellets and other fatal weapons on peacefully agitating farmers leading to serious injuries.

Nevertheless, we are certain that we will continue our march towards Delhi in a peaceful and non-violent manner.

Our demands are just and we will acccept nothing short of these demands.

What are your main demands which the government has not yet accepted?

Our main demands is a legal MSP (Minimum Support Price) guarantee, MSP according to the Swaminathan Commission recommendation of C2 plus 50% formula and complete loan waiver for the farmers and the labourers.

The government is saying that we will form a high power committee to look into these issues under the leadership of Agriculture Minister (Arjun Munda) which will give its report in a time bound manner.

Our argument is that in the last 77 years so many committees have been formed. but their reports have not been implemented. So from the last 77 years we have been amenable to these committees but the (recommendations of these) committees have not yielded any result.

Now we don't want any committee, we want law.

Why can't farmers try one last time to accept government's offer of formation of a committee and give it a last chance?

We postponed our agitation last year on the promise of the Union government, which gave us a letter stating that they will form a committee for the MSP which will ensure MSP for each and every farmer of India.

But now from 2021 to 2024, it's already two-and-a-half years (have passed) but the (Union) government has not done anything.

These are not our demands. These are the commitments, promises which Mr Narendra Modi's government made to farmers at different times. Whether it's MSP guarantee law in 2011-2012 when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.

As the chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee he recommended that there must be an MSP guarantee law. Before the 2014 (general) election he promised that if he comes tp power he will implement Sthe waminathan Commission report and the C2 plus 50 per cent formula.

What we are saying is that these are not our demands. These are the promises which Mr Narendra Modi's government made a number of times. We want his promises to be fulfilled.

Why do you think Prime Minister Modi is now not walking the talk?

There is absolute corporate pressure on the Narendra Modi government.

We must understand very clearly that we are not saying that the government has to procure all food grains at MSP. We are only saying that whoever -- whether it's a private trader or someone else -- purchases or procures farmers' food grains and crops they must be procured or purchased at or above MSP.

If he is purchasing or procuring food grains or the crops below MSP then there must be legal proceedings against that private trader. That's what we are demanding.

IMAGE: Farmers run for cover amidst tear gas fired by the police to disperse them at the Shambhu barrier, February 21, 2024. Photograph: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

Doesn't this distort the discovery of fair market price? Would you say that this will distort how the market economics works?

No.

In our many meetings we asked Piyush Goyalji (the Union minister of commerce and food) that if you have promised a salary of Rs 2 lakh per month to your secretaries for whatever job they are doing and if at the end of month there are market fluctuations then can you tell them we can't give you Rs 2 lakh salary and this month we will pay you salary of only Rs 50,000? Will they accept this? The secretaries said we will not accept it.

Our argument remains the same. Whatever MSP is promised by the government, farmers must get at least that MSP.

Where exactly is the government differing from your demand, your acceptance, your way of calculating the C2 plus 50 per cent formula?

The government and the famers are not on the same page about what factors to consider while calculating the C2 plus 50 per cent formula. But the calculation part can come at a later stage.

We are saying that whatever MSP you are declaring as per the CACP (Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices) formula you must ensure that farmers must get at least this much (a fixed minimum price for their produce).

But the government is not ready to give even that much.

What we are requesting right now is whatever (MSP) you are declaring every year, farmers must get at least that much. But they are not ready to do this. Our talks are stuck at this point.

IMAGE: Farmers run for cover to escape the tear gas fired by the police to disperse them at the Shambhu barrier, February 21, 2024. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

What measures and methods are being adopted by the Haryana government to prevent farmers from reaching Delhi?

More than 3,000 farmers at different times have been detained in Haryana. Other than the Haryana police, more than 50,000 central police forces like the CRPF, ITBP and RAF are deployed in Haryana, number of villages have been completely sealed.

The government is registering fake cases against our leaders. The government has registered two fake cases under IPC 307 against me. A number of farmers are arrested on the fake charges.

The government is adopting a dictatorial way to crush farmers' agitation in Haryana. There is a situation of chaos in Haryana. Farmers trying to move towards the (Delhi) border are being apprehended by the police.

Farmers have been sent notices in which the government is threatening that if you will join the movement, then we will impound your whole ancestral properties. We will seal your bank accounts. We will revoke the passports of your young kids.

Our social media accounts have been suspended or withheld so that our voices don't reach our country's people. They want to suffocate, stifle our voices by taking away our right to freedom of speech.

These are some of the dictatorial ways in which the government of Haryana and the Union government are threatening farmers.

More than 10,000 farmers from Haryana are present at the Jind-Patiala border. More than 5,000 farmers are there on the Shambu border. And more than 50,000 farmers from Punjab are ready to join the others on both borders.

Isn't this farmers' agitation geographically limited to the states of Punjab and Haryana? There seems to be no farmers coming to join this agitation from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, etc. Why?

On the twelfth night (February 12) hundreds of farmers who were coming to Delhi from Karnataka were arrested at the Bhopal railway station. Their train was stopped mid-way, they were made to alight from the train and arrested. They were harassed at the Bhopal railway station and at Bhopal police station.

More than 74 farmers were detained from Odisha when they were coming to Delhi. This government is suppressing our voices throughout India. In Uttar Pradesh, scores of our workers and leaders were detained.

The government wants to create a narrative that this issue is only being raised by the farmers of Punjab and Haryana by not allowing farmers from other states to reach Delhi.

One fails to see a mass upsurge of farmers coming from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, both dominantly agrarian states. Why?

I have already answered this question. The governments of certain states are using high-handed tactics to prevent farmers from these states as well as those from the western, eastern and southern India from reaching Delhi.

Farmers from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have started their journeys when we had called for the Delhi Chalo agitation from February 13 but the governments from many states (that are ruled by the BJP) are playing dirty tactics and preventing them from being seen with farmers from Punjab and Haryana.

This is a pan-India farmers' agitation. The government wants to create a fake narrative that this is not an all-India farmers' agitation.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
 
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