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'Farmers did not come to Delhi to wage war'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
Last updated on: January 29, 2021 07:21 IST
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'They had come to tell the government what their problem is (with the three farm laws) and cautioned the government that if you don't solve our problems we will continue our agitation.'

IMAGE: Policemen ask farmers to stop marching towards Delhi from the Ghazipur border during their Kisan Gantantra Parade. Photograph: Vijay Verma/PTI Photo
 

Dr Ashish Mittal, general secretary of the All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com that the Delhi police and their political masters are responsible for the violence that broke out in Delhi on Republic Day.

Who is to be blamed for the violence in Delhi?

(The Delhi) police is single-handedly responsible for what happened in Delhi.

The farmers have been asking the Delhi police for the last 15-20 days about the route and some of the farmers' unions pressed for going into Delhi for the Republic Day tractor parade.

But the police lathi-charged and tear gassed the protestors and raised barricades even on the routes for which we had permission.

These instances are bad events. The farmers have not come to Delhi to wage a war. They had come to tell the government what their problem is (with the three farm laws) and cautioned the government that if you don't solve our problems we will continue our agitation.

So, irrespective of what happened, the farmers will continue to organise and agitate for the repeal of the three farm laws in a peaceful manner.

Our tractor march to Delhi was just one of the facets of our agitation.

If the farmers knew there was confusion over the routes allowed by the Delhi police, why did they still go ahead with the parade?

There was confusion and the Delhi police did give us the official routes. Accordingly, parades were taken out on these routes. But a large section of them (the farmers) also did not march on these routes.

Who will take the responsibility for these farmers diverging from the routes allowed by the police? Who were these farmers?

We don't know because there were thousands and thousands of tractors and farmers in the street today.

Are you saying that this agitation has spun out of the Sanyukta Kisan Manch's control?

These incidents keep happening. The government had said we will not allow you to cross from Punjab. The farmers did cross Punjab and come to Delhi.

Violence erupted at some locations because the police had attacked the farmers without any provocation.

If somebody is trying to open barricades on routes that were allowed for the tractor parade and then you start teargassing them, then that is provocation.

These barricades were raised outside the designated routes to prevent farmers from taking out their march on these routes.

The Delhi police could have handled this in a much better manner. But they failed to maintain law and order.

Till Monday evening there were so many hectic discussions between the police and some of the farmer leaders on the route for entering Akshardham, but the police did not clear this route (for the tractor parade).

The Delhi police and their political masters are playing games with our agitation. They unleashed unprovoked violence against the farmers.

Do you fear the farmer leaders will be held accountable for the violence and be arrested?

That possibility is always there. It has been there from Day One of our agitation and nobody is scared of jail. The important issue is the farmers' demand for the repeal of the three farm laws and we will continue our protests under any circumstance.

Every farmer is incensed at the way the Delhi police acted, resulting in serious injuries and one death.

There are reports and online videos that show farmers attacking the police wherever they outnumbered them?

Farmers are not involved in any violent incidents to the best of my knowledge.

There are videos showing farmers pelting stones at the cops; hitting them with lathis... some farmers even entered the Red Fort...

When you have a massive dissatisfied section of farmers who are agitating for their problems to be solved and you sit on their woes for months together, then you turn a deaf ear towards their grievances, then this frustration does find a way out.

Then you have this government hell-bent on vitiating the situation further and the younger lot's frustration gets the better of their senses.

The government is creating chaos.

Didn't the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha agree that farmers' tractor rally will pass through these designated routes?

There were lot of debates and discussions between the farmers over the routes through which the tractor rally would pass. But the routes that were allowed bypassed Delhi and touched only the outskirts of Delhi.

When the farmers began to move towards Delhi -- and there were six lakh (600,000) tractors on all the five routes -- there already was some dissatisfaction among the farmers about these routes which was not even touching the Outer Ring Road.

Some of the farmers tried to press for this (to take routes that entered into Delhi) and when this happened the police behaved in the most brutal manner.

Didn't the farmers participating in the tractor rally know about these five routes that were agreed upon by the farmers and the Delhi police?

There have been no meetings of all the constituents of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha as all the leaders have been stuck at different places where these tractor rallies were being organised. I am stuck at Gazipur and there is no Internet connection; sometimes even the phone networks didn't work during the day.

What will the protesting farmers do next?

We will have an emergency meeting today and chalk out our future programmes to put pressure on the government for repeal of the three farm laws.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
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