NEW DELHI: The protesting farmer unions and the Yavatmal district administration are on a collision course as the former are adamant on holding a meeting in this Maharashtra town despite denial of permission to do so. Meanwhile, the Delhi Police said on Friday that the violence during the tractor rally of the farmers in the national capital on Republic Day was not due to intelligence failure.
Here are the key developments of the day:
1. Even as the district administration in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal has denied permission to the February 20 ‘Maha Panchayat’ of farmer leader Rakesh Tikait due to rising COVID-19 cases, its organiser Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) said it is firm on holding the public meeting there. The SKM said that if Tikait and other leaders are stopped in Yavatmal, then a sit-in protest would be held. The administration in Yavatmal district on Thursday ordered curbs on gatherings and also closure of schools (which had reopened for select classes) for ten days in view of the rising cases of coronavirus. Tikait, one of the leaders of farmers’ agitation against the new farm laws on Delhi borders, was scheduled to address the rally at Azad Maidan ground in Yavatmal city on Saturday. However, the district administration had denied permission for it. The organisers said that they have submitted a fresh application to the administration seeking its permission for the public meeting. However, response to it is still awaited.
2. Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni has asked farmers to `gherao’ Delhi Police personnel if they come to their villages to make an arrest and not let them leave till the district administration assures that they will not be allowed again into the villages. In a veiled reference to BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, who has been addressing a series of ‘mahapanchayats’ in Punjab and Haryana, Chaduni said there was no need for such events in the two states. The Haryana BKU leader made the controversial remark, virtually asking people to hold policemen hostage while referring to the action taken by the Delhi Police after violence during the farmers’ tractor rally in the national capital on Republic Day.
3. Delhi Police commissioner SN Shrivastava said the violence that broke out on Republic Day was not due to intelligence failure and alleged that the farmers protesting the three agri-marketing laws had betrayed their trust by not following pre-decided routes during the tractor parade. He said there were apprehensions which is why barricades were placed and the farmers were stopped. He said 152 people have been arrested so far in connection with the violence that took place in the national capital on Republic Day.
Responding to a question during the annual press conference of the Delhi Police about the possibility of an intelligence failure on January 26, Shrivastava said “there was no intelligence failure.” “We had been holding talks with them (farmers). We had permitted them to take out the tractor rally. As per the agreement, certain terms and conditions were laid down and they were given designated routes to take out their tractor parade. But they betrayed the trust of Delhi Police and resorted to violence. The police discharged its duties very well,” he said.
4. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said in the state assembly that only the “brokers” who had betrayed farmers were unhappy over the new farm laws, prompting a sharp reaction from the opposition benches who staged a walkout in protest. The issue had also come up when the house assembled in the morning, leading to the adjournment of the proceedings for an hour in two phases. After leader of opposition Ram Govind Chaudhary demanded in the house that the issue of the protest against the farm laws be taken up immediately, the chief minister said the “dalaals” (brokers) were worried as now the money is directly going into the accounts of farmers. “People who are indulging in brokerage (‘dalaali’) by deceiving the farmers are worried over the fact that the money is directly going to their accounts. Today, farmers are getting their receipt on smartphones,” he said, adding that the system of brokerage has ceased to exist.
5. A Delhi court sent climate activist Disha Ravi, arrested for allegedly being involved in sharing a “toolkit” on social media related to the farmers’ protest, to three-day judicial custody. Additional chief metropolitan magistrate Akash Jain sent Ravi, 21, to jail after Delhi Police produced her before the court on expiry of her five-day custodial interrogation. The police said that her custodial interrogation was not required for the time being and the agency may seek her further interrogation once her co-accused – Shantanu Mukul and Nikita Jacob – join the interrogation. The police said Ravi was evasive during her previous interrogation and tried to shift blame on the co-accused. Mukul and Jacob have been asked to appear before the investigating agency on February 22, the agency told the court.
6. Congress leader and former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot said the centre’s agricultural laws are not only anti-farmer but also against people from the middle class and they will force the government to withdraw these. Addressing a “kisan mahapanchayat” in the Kotkhawada area of Chaksu town of Jaipur, Pilot claimed that the laws will push the future of farmers into darkness due to which farmers from all over the country are against it. “There is a huge crisis for farmers in the country today. We all have to understand that the Union government has brought the laws that are not only anti-farmer but also against the middle class and the youth,” he said, adding that his party was committed to the farmers’ interest and will compel the government to withdraw the laws. A three-point resolution was passed in the “mahapanchayat”, demanding the withdrawal of the farm laws, a legislation to ensure the minimum support price (MSP) for crops and the rollback of the hike in fuel prices.
7. The centre is using the “divide and rule policy” used by the British to suppress the ongoing farmers’ protest against the new agri laws, Rashtriya Lok Dal vice-president Jayant Chaudhary said. The agitation was first dubbed as a “Khalistani movement” and then called a “Jats’ movement” when it is the fight of all farmers, Chaudhary said while addressing a ‘mahapanchayat’ in western Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura district. This was the 11th such congregation of farmers in the region amid the agitation against three farm laws enacted by the government in September last year. Taking a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chaudhary said he “is such a strong prime minister that he is now standing against farmers”. The RLD leader alleged the government is trying to divide farmers to end the protest.
(With agency inputs)