Thousands defy ban, join mahapanchayat

New Delhi: Defying a ban, thousands of people attended a mahapanchayat at Shamli in western Uttar Pradesh in solidarity with the farmers who have been protesting for over two months against the three agricultural laws at the borders of Delhi. Security, meanwhile, has been beefed up all across the Delhi-NCR area in the wake of the farmers’ unions calling a nationwide “Chakka Jam” (blockading of roads) protest on Saturday.

Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait, who has become the face of the anti-farm law protests, said the “chakka jam” will not take place in Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, but will be done in other parts of NCR and the rest of the country, including the southern states.

 

“Dilli mein hum nahi kar rahe, wahan to raja ne khud qile-bandi kar li hai humare jaam karne ki zaroorat hi nahi hai (We are not going to do anything in Delhi, the king there has already fortified it, there is no need for us to do a blockade now),” he said, in a veiled jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government over the fortification of the protest sites at the Ghazipur, Tikri and Singhu borders.

Tikait, however, did not attend the mahapanchayat in Shamli, saying his outfit had nothing to do with the meeting. But his brother Narendra Tikait attended it in his personal capacity. The state government had not given permission for the mahapanchayat, organised by the Rashtriya Lok Dal and Samajwadi Party, on the ground of the “unruly behaviour” of the farmers during the Republic Day tractor rally and “violation of Covid guidelines” by protesters. The administration even imposed Section 144 CrPC prohibiting the gathering of more than four persons from February 4 till April 3.

 

Despite the ban, a large number of people joined the mahapanchayat, where songs imploring the Prime Minister to listen to the voice of farmers played in the background. Chants of “Inquilab Zindabad” were also raised by farmers who walked or drove to the venue on tractors.

“We are saying in one voice, if anyone raises a lathi to the farmer, we will crush that finger. Let’s take a decision today, if this government is not hearing you out, you do the same in next year’s election,” RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary said.

After Section 144 was imposed to ban large gatherings, Mr Chaudhary tweeted on Thursday: “144 reasons why I will go to Shamli tomorrow!”

 

Addressing the gathering, Mr Chaudhary accused the BJP of hatching a conspiracy for the Republic Day violence. “The Delhi police chose to remain a mute spectator to the acts of vandalism by rowdy elements on January 26 in Delhi.”

Chaudhary also accused the Centre of treading the path of rigidity and arrogance. He advised the Narendra Modi government not to make it a prestige issue and repeal the laws.

At another mahapanchayat in Dausa, a resolution seeking repeal of the three farm laws and withdrawal of cases filed against farmers for the Republic Day was passed. The resolution also sought compensation for the families of farmers who died during the protests which started in November last year.

 

Addressing the mahapanchayat, former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot said: “While making these laws, none of the state governments or farmers’ organisations were consulted. The Government of India claims these farm laws are in the interest of the farmers but they are being opposed across the country. The farmers are protesting in a Gandhian manner, but the way barricades were put up and electricity and water supply discontinued, it is unjustified.”

Yet another mahapanchayat was held at Sirsa in Haryana, where Indian National Lok Dal’s Abhay Chautala, who recently quit as an MLA in support of the farmers, addressed the meeting.

 

Several mahapanchayats have been held over the past few weeks across UP and Haryana in support of the farmers’ agitation against the new farm laws. The recent mahapanchayats in UP’s Bhagpat and Haryana’s Jind were also attended by thousands of farmers.

Tikait, who has planned a series of meetings across UP till February 18, is scheduled to address a mahapanchayat in Dadri’s Charkhi village on Sunday. The three khaps of Dadri district — Sangwan, Phogat and Sheoran – have socially boycotted Haryana deputy CM Dushyant Chautala, Bhiwani-Mahendergarh MP Dharambir Singh and former Dadri MLA Rajdeep Phogat.

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