Farmer leaders entering Vigyan Bhavan express determination not to budge from their stance
The eighth round of talks between the Centre and farm unions, which featured raised voices and increased tensions, ended without any resolution to the ongoing stalemate over the repeal of three farm reform laws.
The next meeting will be held on January 15, after the next hearing in the Supreme Court on the farmers protest issue, which is likely to be held on January 11.
According to union leaders, the Centre said that the issue is best resolved by the Supreme Court. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar would not confirm this. However, he emphasised that the government is committed to following the apex court’s direction.
“In our democracy, it is Parliament which makes the laws. But the Supreme Court has every right to examine it,” he told journalists after the meeting. “Whatever decision the court gives, the government is committed to following it,” he added.
Farmer leaders said policy should not be decided by the court, which should only look at the constitutional validity of the laws.
“It’s a sad day for democracy when an elected government in the middle of talks takes resort in the Supreme Court and says that we should fall back on the Court,” said Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch leader Kavitha Kuruganti.
“No matter what the decision of the court is, if it is against farmers, we will not accept it. We will go to jail if needed. These laws are a death knell for farmers,” said Hannan Mollah of the All India Kisan Sabha.
“I do not have any hope for the next meeting. The government is only repeating the same thing, they are not listening to us at all. But farmers will not be the first to break off, we will not be responsible for the breakdown of talks. That is why we will come back on January 15,” said Gurnam Singh Chadhuni, who heads a Haryana faction of the BKU.
Earlier, the meeting got off to a tense start. Union leaders said slogans such as, “Ya jitenge, ya marenge” (Win or Die), after the Centre refused to repeal the farm reform laws.
Mr. Tomar said that the unions had failed to come with any other proposal apart from repeal, and the government was not prepared to repeal.
BKU-Rajewal leader Balbir Singh Rajewal raised his voice, accusinv the government of being adamant. He said that the Central Government did not have a right to interfere in agricultural activity, indicating that there are previous Supreme Court judgements establishing this.
The farmers would not even take a lunch or tea break, as is usual in these talks. It was under protest, said Mr. Chaduni. Instead, they sat in the negotiating room, refusing to budge, until the Central government team returned and the talks resumed briefly.