Outlined like an actual House with ‘Speaker’, ‘Deputy Speaker’ and 200 floor members on rotation basis, it passed two resolutions as well
At Jantar Mantar, barely two kilometres away from Parliament in Sansad Marg where the monsoon session is under way, farmers protesting against the farm laws held ‘Farmers’ Parliament’.
In the wake of protests that turned violent on Republic Day, the area was heavily barricaded with thousands of security personnel including senior Delhi Police officers on duty all day long. A few minutes past midnight, the first bus of farmers arrived with a “convoy” of security personnel. Sticking to their word, 200 farmers arrived in four buses.
Farmers’ IDs – provided by Samyukta Kisan Morcha mentioning their names and details, which most wore around their necks – were checked multiple times and the whole area was covered by CCTVs, many installed specifically for ‘Farmers’ Parliament’.
“This is a multi-layer arrangement with local police, Paramilitary and Rapid Action Force. We have contingency plans and the area around Parliament is prohibited,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Deepak Yadav.
Just like Parliament, the Farmers’ Parliament also had a Speaker and Deputy Speaker who conducted ‘Parliament’, in which 45 speakers made their point. Talking about how it is a parallel Parliament session, Raminder Singh Patiala, Legal Cell member of Samyukta Kisan Morcha, said that a six-member committee has been set up for each day to become Speaker and Deputy Speaker. “On day one, we have discussed the first of the three acts and how these impact the farmers and steal the mandis,” he said, referring to the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act.
Mr. Raminder said that two resolutions were also passed in the first half including one on farmers who died during the protest and another on freedom of the press. “Tributes were paid to martyred farmers during the protest. The second was that the restriction on media should be lifted. Initially, police were not allowing the media to come to the farmers’ side after which we spoke to the police and ensured that media was allowed inside. This is our first victory,” he said.
When asked about the “opposition” in this Parliament, Mr. Raminder said, “We are the opposition”. Another protester quipped, “But is the opposition ever heard in this country?”
Every day, 200 people will keep changing. As it is decided, there will be five persons each from 40 organisations, who are a part of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha including 32 from Punjab and eight from other States.
Chukki Nanjundaswamy from Karnataka State Farmers’ Association said there are representatives from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
“In a democracy, Parliament is a space where you take important decisions and where issues concerning a country’s citizens are discussed. We have to hold a parallel Parliament because we are a majority of this country and our issues are not being discussed. We have been sitting at the borders for eight months and they haven’t seen us. We hope they see us now as we sit a few meters away from them,” he said.
The journey from Singhu border to Jantar Mantar wasn’t easy, the farmers said, adding that it took them three hours instead of one because they stopped at two points “in the name of checking”. “They checked our IDs at Singhu and stopped us in outer Delhi where we were all checked again. Then right before reaching, they stopped us again. They probably think that these tricks will dissuade us from going on but they won’t,” said Darshan Singh, a protester from Bhatinda.
As the buses reached Jantar Mantar, media personnel were not initially allowed by the police and were asked to stay inside an enclosure but were later allowed to go inside in two groups. A reporter with a TV channel also sustained minor injuries when a YouTuber, who was in possession of an ID card from Samyukta Kisan Morcha, created a ruckus inside the media enclosure. Delhi Police detained the Youtuber while the journalist was taken for medical examination.
At 5 p.m., four buses were brought near where the session was under way and farmers peacefully wrapped it up with the National Anthem followed by “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, “Inquilab Zindabad” and the Sikh slogan.