The unions said they had not yet received any communication from the Centre for talks which could, however, happen only in a congenial atmosphere. They claimed more than 100 farmers were still reported to be “missing” after the tractor rally and the police action that followed the violence on Republic Day.
The unions’ umbrella body Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has formed a committee to look into the issue of “missing persons”. “It is compiling information on missing persons following which formal action can be initiated with the authorities,” farm leader Darshan Pal said.
On the prospect of talks, Yogendra Yadav of Jai Kisan Andolan, referring to PM Narendra Modi’s remark that the proposal made to farmers (keeping the laws suspended for up to 18 months) was still on offer, said, “If the government takes two steps forward (from what it had offered on January 22), farmers will not move backward. We don’t have any ego. We are ready for talks. We want farmers to get what they want and they want repeal of the three farm laws and legal guarantee for MSP.” This might suggest some leeway, but it is for the unions, mainly from Punjab, to take a decision.
Earlier in the day, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait suggested that talks could take place on February 2 but later told ANI that while he was thankful to the PM for his initiative, those arrested would need to be released first.
Appealing to farmers to strengthen the movement, Yadav, in his message from Shahjahanpur border, said, “Pura khel ab palat gaya hai. Ab palda kisan ka bhari hai. (The situation has completely turned and farmers are now on the front foot).”
Modi told an all-party meeting on Saturday said that the government’s proposals to the unions still stood and agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar was just a phone call away for taking the talks forward. He referred to the agriculture ministry’s proposals of putting implementation of the farm laws on hold for 18 month and setting up a joint committee to discuss farmers’ demands during the period.
The ministry had made this proposal during the 10th round of talks on January 20 and stuck to it in the next round of talks on January 22 while asking the unions to come for talks after accepting this offer. The unions, however, rejected the offer, leading to the current stalemate.