With the crowds of Punjab farmers starting to thin out at the Singhu and Tikri protest sites on the Delhi-Haryana border, Punjab’s farmers union leaders have decided to cancel plans for large mahapanchayat gatherings in their State and mobilise people to come to Delhi instead. They hope that large mobilisation for a countrywide rail roko protest on Friday will prove a turning point in their demands for the Centre to repeal three farm reform laws and give them a legal guarantee for remunerative prices.
The decision was taken at a meeting of 32 Punjab unions at the Singhu border on Tuesday, leaders said at an evening press conference.
Buta Singh Burjgill, president of Bharatiya Kisan Union-Dakaunda said it was more important to strengthen the morcha in Delhi than to hold large gatherings in Punjab itself. He appealed to all unions and protestors to cancel any existing plans for mahapanchayats in the State.
All India Kisan Sabha’s Punjab head Major Singh Punnawal urged Punjab’s villagers to collect money and travel together to Delhi to counter the idea that the movement was losing momentum in the capital.
The mahapanchayats are giving the false impression that the Delhi morcha is being withdrawn, said Rajinder Singh Deep Singh Wala of the Kirti Kisan Union, adding that the large gatherings may be needed in other States which were late to the movement, but not in Punjab, where the protest began and where most farmers are aware and sensitised to the issues.
The wider umbrella front of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which includes unions from Punjab and elsewhere, has been actively promoting mahapanchayats, especially in Haryana, Rajasthan, western U.P., Madhya Pradesh and as far as Telangana. BKU-Tikait leader Rakesh Tikait, who has been drawing large crowds, has even announced that it is better for farmers to mobilise where they are rather than coming to the capital, although other SKM leaders say they are preparing farmers in these States for coming to Delhi when the call is given.
Kul Hind Kisan Sabha leader Baldev Singh Nihalgarh emphasised that the rail roko protest was key to forcing the Centre to break the current deadlock on the three farm laws. Talks between Central ministers and union leaders broke down on January 22. The unions also plan to mark three months of their Dilli Chalo campaign on February 26.
Union leaders said they were making arrangements for the changing seasons, with youngsters returning to their fields for the harvest, while senior citizens come to Delhi. Water and electricity for fans and coolers will also be provided to cope with the approaching summer, they said.