Farmers take protest to country's power centre, non-BJP parties join in show of strength
Thousands of farmers marched through the streets of the capital, chanting slogans and flashing flags, to press their demands like debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce and were joined by social activists and leaders of non-BJP parties in a show of strength near Parliament here.
The farmers, who had gathered from various states and camped at the Ramlila ground overnight, started their march around 10.30 am amid heavy policy deployment, only to be stopped at the Parliament Street police station.
The government came in for severe criticism for "not implementing a single major initiative for farmers in the past four and a half years".
National secretary of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) Asish Mittal said farmers from 24 states joined the protest. Banded under the AIKSCC, which claims to be an umbrella body of 207 organisations of farmers and agricultural workers, many protesters arrived in the city on Thursday, on trains, buses and other modes of transport.
A group of farmers from Tamil Nadu staged a 'nude protest' by lying in front of the stage after placing bones and human skulls on their bodies.
About 1,300 members of the National South Indian River Interlinking Farmers Association reached the national capital in the early hours of Thursday and were carrying seven skulls and bones, said their leader P Ayyakannu.
He said the skulls and bones were of the farmers who committed suicide.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Samajwadi Party leader Dharmendra Yadav, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader S Sudhakar Reddy, AAP MP Sanjay Singh and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah were among the leaders who joined the farmers at Jantar Mantar.
While Gandhi said leaders of all opposition parties stand united with farmers in ensuring their good future and called for a farm loan waiver, Kejriwal alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has "stabbed farmers in the back" by not fulfilling the promises made to them.
Gandhi said that no one can silence the voice of farmers and youth while asserting that if the government insults them, then they will ensure its removal. He added that the farmers were not seeking a "free gift" from the government by asking for a farm loan waiver but were only asking for what is due to them.
"If this government can waive Rs 3.5 lakh crore loans of 15 big industrialists, why can't the loans of crores of farmers in the country be waived," he asked.
Kejriwal claimed that the Centre had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying it would not implement the M S Swaminathan Commission report. "The government had also made lot of promises to farmers in last elections (2014), but it has not fulfilled those promises. And, by not implementing the Swaminathan Commission report, Modi ji has stabbed the farmers in their back (kisano ke peeth mey chhura bhonka hai)."
The AAP leader said the Union government should implement the report in five months, otherwise, the farmers will show their might in the 2019 elections. "The affidavit filed in the court should be withdrawn and the report should be implemented, otherwise, farmers would wreak havoc in 2019 elections ('kisan agle election mey qayamat dhah denge')," he said.
Various leaders also addressed the gathering. Sitaram Yechury said this was the "same police station (Parliament Street police station) where Bhagat Singh was taken into custody for throwing a bomb (in the Legislative Assembly)". Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said the protest is a historic development as not only farmers across the nation have been assembled under one platform but also it has enjoyed supports from all section of society.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the condition of farmers in the country needs to be changed but the government is "not sympathetic" towards their plight. Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar alleged that the government from the "very beginning has been adopting pro-corporate policies and not a single major initiative for farmers has been launched by it".
Farooq Abdullah said Kashmiris are standing with the farmers in their fight for their rights.
"We all know your plight. We know how you spend everything on your farms and when you do not get the right produce you have to starve. The farmers' movement to Delhi is a wake up call for the government," he said and urged people to join hands to overthrow the BJP government in the upcoming elections.
The AIKSCC claimed the two-day rally is one of the largest congregations of farmers in Delhi. Five gurdwaras in the Delhi region have extended their help to the farmers. Also students from various universities turned out in large numbers to lend support to the farmers. The protest also saw participation of a number of women farmers who travelled from various parts of the country.
Volunteers, including doctors, lawyers, professors and artists, came out to help the farmers. Around 600-700 volunteers of a solidarity group 'Nation For Farmers' marched with the protesters from the four assembly points.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)