Day after Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar hinted at 'Khalistani element' at farmers' protest, Union home minister Amit Shah said that the stir was "not politically motivated". The clarification came even as thousands of farmers rejected Centre's offer to hold immediate talks if they ended their blockade of key highways they've held as they seek the scrapping of legislation they say could devastate crop prices.
"I never called the farmers' protest politically motivated, neither I am calling it now," Shah in Hyderabad.
The thousands of farmers will continue camping out on highways in Punjab and Haryana until three new agriculture laws are withdrawn, Jaskaran Singh, a leader of the Kisan Union, or Farmers Union, told reporters.
We'll not go to Burari (Delhi). Our 30 farmers' organisations take decisions after consensus is developed. Our leaders will brief media about it later today: Baldev Singh Sirsa, Farmers' leader at Singhu border (Delhi-Haryana) on Home Minister's offer to hold talks before 3rd Dec pic.twitter.com/edbacYjaGm
— ANI (@ANI) November 29, 2020
The farmers say the laws could cause the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices and result in their exploitation by corporations that would buy their crops cheaply.
The government says the legislation brings about much needed reform agriculture that will allow farmers the freedom to market their produce and boost production through private investment.
These reforms have not only served to unshackle our farmers but also given them new rights and opportunities," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.
A meeting of over 30 farmer groups was held to discuss Union Minister Amit Shah's offer for talks before the scheduled date of December 3 once they move to Burari in the city, but the thousands of protesters refused to budge and prepared for spending another night in the cold at the Singhu and Tikri border points.
heir representatives said Shah's condition that they shift the protest is not acceptable and claimed Burari ground is an "open jail". Opposition parties too pressed the government to initiate an unconditional dialogue with the farmers.
"The condition laid down by Home Minister Amit Shah is not acceptable to us. We will not hold any conditional talks. We reject the government's offer. The blockade will not end. We will block all five entry point to Delhi," Surjeet S Phul, Bhartiya Kisan Union's Punjab president, told reporters. "The condition put for talks is an insult to farmers. We will never go to Burari. It is not a park but an open jail," he added.
Gurnam Singh Chadhoni, Haryana unit president for the Bhartiya Kisan Union, said they were ready to talk "but will not accept any condition now". Farmers who had reached Nirankarai Samagam Ground in Burari on Saturday also continued their protest there.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla in a letter to 32 farmers organisations sent on Saturday cited the cold conditions and the COVID-19 outbreak and said the farmers should move to the Burari ground where adequate facilities have been made for them. "As soon as you shift to the ground at Burari, the very next day a high-level committee of union ministers will hold talks at Vigyan Bhavan with the representatives of all farmers unions, with whom dialogue had taken place earlier, he said in the letter.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah had on Saturday said that a delegation of the farmers has been invited for a discussion on December 3 but as some of their unions have demanded that talks should be held immediately, the central government is ready to do so as soon as the protesters shift to the ground in Burari. The central government has reached out to the farmers underscoring its willingness to hold talks with them. It has also asserted that concerns expressed by some farm bodies about the new laws are misplaced, asserting that existing support measures like the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and state-run 'mandis' will remain in place.
In his monthly 'Mann Ki Baat' broadcast, Prime Minister Modi said "correct information, away from rumours and confusion of any kind" is a big strength for people in any field, as he spoke about a couple of farmers involved with innovative practices in the field. "The demands, which were made by farmers for years and regarding which every political party at some point of time had made promises, have been fulfilled... These reforms have not only freed them of various shackles but also given them new rights and new opportunities. These rights have begun mitigating farmers' problems in a very short span of time," he said on the new farm laws.
Farmer leaders, however, claimed that more protesters will join them from Haryana and Punjab. Several Khaps or caste councils from Haryana have extended support to the farmers' ongoing protest and will march towards the national capital, Independent MLA from Haryana's Dadri constituency Sombir Sangwan, who also heads the 'Sangwan Khap', told.