Prime Minister Narendra Modi should for once express grief in Parliament over the death of around 750 farmers during the months-long anti-farm law protests at Delhi's borders, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said on Saturday.
He slammed the Centre over the minimum support price issue and alleged that its assurance that the system would continue is "only on paper" and said the farmers want it in reality.
Participating in a discussion, titled "Seeds of Wrath: Fears and Facts: How to address the farm crisis", at the India Today Conclave 2021, BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal countered Tikait, saying the protest against three farm laws of the Centre appears to be politically motivated.
Tikait said, "Farmers are protesting to get an appropriate procurement price for their crops. The government claims that the MSP has been there, is there and shall remain in place, but the farmers want it in reality and not just on papers."
"The protest has entered its 11th month. The government and the prime minister should for once speak in Parliament about the 750 farmers who have lost their lives during the protest.
"The prime minister should express grief at the loss of the lives of farmers," Tikait, who has been leading hundreds of BKU members and protesters at Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border since November 2020, said.
Agarwal said Modi always speaks about the farmers and has spoken about them in Parliament.
"The protest has entered its 11th month but there has been confusion about it all the time. There could be misunderstandings about the laws, but those have been debated on various platforms. The issue has even reached the Supreme Court," the Lok Sabha MP from Meerut said.
"I want to know about just one point in the laws that they have an objection to. It (the protest), therefore, appears to me not motivated by the interests of farmers but by a political agenda or political ambitions. The protest can be linked to some political parties," he said.
All discussions about the laws have taken place and the Centre is sensitive towards the farming community with a proven track record since 2014, he added.
On the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, Tikait alleged that Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra is an accused under IPC section 120B (criminal conspiracy) in the case and should step down from his post.
Mishra has not been named in the FIR lodged in connection with the incident. The FIR has named his son Ashish Mishra as an accused, along with 15-20 other "unnamed" persons.
The Union minister has been refuting the allegations of the involvement of his son, who was arrested on Saturday.
On allegations of him becoming an "agent" of the ruling BJP as he brokered a compromise between the government and the victims of the Lakhimpur violence, Tikait asked who were levelling these charges.
He also claimed that the opposition parties have lost relevance.
"The terms of compromise were that the last rites of the victims would be performed, the minister's son would be arrested and an FIR would be lodged against him," he said.
Tikait claimed that as long as Mishra remains the MoS Home, no one can question him.
He trashed the claims of "fissures" appearing among farmer leaders over the BKU's stance in the wake of the Lakhimpur incident.
"The compromise was reached in front of 10,000 farmers, including the relatives of the victims and government representatives. A compromise should be made if there is a chance for it in whatever conditions.
"The officers who were in Lakhimpur for the compromise were sent by the government with full-fledged power. The compromise was for the last rites and the government has announced compensation for the victims," he said.
On three people allegedly being lynched after five people, including four farmers, were mowed down by an SUV, Tikait said the act was committed by a crowd as a "reaction" to the incident.
Asked about one of the new farm laws that would facilitate a farmer to sell his crops in any "mandi", Tikait claimed that 182 mandis have been shut in Madhya Pradesh due to their financial conditions.
"Farmers have been destroyed. MSP has only been on paper. Nobody visits the villages. They sit in Delhi and pass laws," he said, adding that mandis are just platforms for a farmer to sell his produce and that they do not set the MSP.
Tikait said mandis were closed in Bihar 16 years ago and going by the Centre's logic, the farmers of that state should have become rich by now.
When pointed out that there was no legal guarantee on MSP during the days of previous governments, he said that is why those parties are not in power now.
"In 2011, a financial committee was set up with Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, as its chairman. It had recommended to the Centre that a law should be enacted guaranteeing MSP," the BKU leader claimed.
"Today, Modi is betraying the country over something he had recommended," he alleged.
Agarwal referred to Tikait's father Mahendra Tikait to highlight the woes of farmers and claimed that the new laws have liberated them from mandis, allowing them to sell their crops anywhere.
Tikait, however, insisted if Agarwal could define "anywhere".
The Centre, which has held 11 rounds of talks with the protesting farmers, has maintained that the new laws are pro-farmer.