Farm laws: Protests in many states by Congress and other Oppn parties; Leaders say ready to move SC
New Delhi, Sep 28: Stepping up pressure, the Congress along with other opposition parties and farmers' organisations held demonstrations against the new farm laws across the country on Monday, with some protesters torching a tractor at the India Gate in the heart of Lutyens' Delhi.
Farmers in Punjab continued their 'rail roko' agitation for the fifth consecutive day and announced that the protest against the three farm bills will be extended till October 2.
The protesters under the banner of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee have been squatting on rail tracks since September 24 at Jalandhar, Amritsar, Tanda, Mukerian and Ferozepur.
The Congress invoked Bhagat Singh, whose birth anniversary was being celebrated today, during the protests, and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh took part in a sit-in at the ancestral village of the freedom fighter.
The chief minister said his government would approach the Supreme Court over the farm laws and warned that Pakistan's ISI could exploit the anger over the new legislations to foment trouble in the border state.
Protests were also held in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Telangana, Gujarat, Goa, Odisha and Tamil Nadu, where the DMK and its allies, including the Congress, hit the streets. DMK chief M K Stalin said his party was ready to challenge the new laws in court.
Kerala was readying to approach the Supreme Court against the laws and Tamil Nadu government should follow suit and if this does not happen, "we (DMK) as an opposition party are ready to go to court on behalf of farmers and the people," Stalin said, while addressing protesters in Kancheepuram district.
Congress MP from Thrissur, Kerala, T N Prathapan moved the Supreme Court on Monday challenging the constitutional validity of various provisions of the Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, one of the three contentious farm laws notified by the government. MDMK chief Vaiko, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K S Alagiri, DMK leaders T R Baalu and Dayanidhi Maran were among those who took part in the protests held at separate locations.
Demonstrations were held in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli and Tirunelveli among other places across the state. Five people claiming to be members of the Punjab Youth Congress were detained after they unloaded a tractor from a truck in the high-security area at Rajpath, a few hundred metres from the President House and the Parliament, in the national capital and set it on fire at around 7 AM.
"On #BhagatSingh's birth anniversary Youth Congress set ablaze a tractor in protest against the govt's anti farmer bills," the Indian Youth Congress tweeted.
The BJP lashed out at the Congress over the incident, saying it has "shamed" the country with its "drama" aimed at garnering publicity and "misleading" farmers. BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav dubbed the Congress as "anti-farmers", saying farmers venerate their farm equipment and will not set tractors on fire.
Nearly 100 Gujarat Congress workers, including state party president Amit Chavda and MLAs Baldevji Thakor and C J Chavda, were detained in Gandhinagar during protests. In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president Ajay Kumar Lallu and other party workers were held during the protest.
Hundreds of Congress workers marched in Kolkata carrying haystacks on their shoulders and submitted a memorandum to West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, urging him to "intervene and ensure" that the laws were immediately repealed. The party said similar protests were carried in other states by PCC Presidents, MLAs, MPs, and party office bearers and leaders who marched to the residence of the governors.
The Opposition led by the Congress has alleged that the laws will make the farmers vulnerable to exploitation and will lead to the scrapping of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system. They are also critical of the manner in which these bills were passed in Parliament. The Centre has maintained that the laws would beneficial to the farmers as they would have the freedom to choose the buyers for their produce and get remunerative price. Also, it has stressed that the MSP system will stay. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said the Congress “has been trying to do politics in the name of farmers, and it has been unmasked”.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said he would fight the Centre's “malicious” new agriculture Acts constitutionally and legally, asserting that he will do whatever it takes to protect the farmers. "I have said we will take this matter forward.
The President has passed these bills and now we will take this matter to the Supreme Court," Singh said after paying tributes to Bhagat Singh on his 113th birth anniversary at his ancestral place Khatkar Kalan in SBS Nagar district.
"There has been peace in Punjab but when you try to take away someone's food, then won't he be angry. He becomes the target for ISI. That is why I am saying whatever they have done is anti-national,” he later told reporters.
He said "with the unrest among the farmers spreading to other states, the entire nation would be exposed to the ISI threat". The AICC general secretary in charge of Punjab affairs, Harish Rawat, announced a signature campaign beginning October 2 to collect two crore signatures of farmers against the new farm laws and these will be submitted to the President of India on November 14.
In Lucknow, police stopped members of the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party’s students wing as they tried to march towards the chief minister's residence. Haryana Congress held a protest outside the party's state headquarters in Chandigarh, alleging the laws will make farmers "dependent" and leave them at the mercy of big corporates.
A delegation comprising Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja, former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, party's state affairs incharge Vivek Bansal, other senior leaders submitted a memorandum to Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya which was addressed to the President.
Telangana Congress leaders and the new AICC in-charge for party affairs in Telangana Manickam Tagore were taken into custody when they tried to proceed to the Raj Bhavan from an adjacent government guest house. They were released by police later.
President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to the three farm bills -- The Farmers'' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Meanwhile, farmer organisations backed by a number of other social and political outfits on Monday staged protests across Karnataka against amendments to the Karnataka Land Reforms Act and the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act passed by the Karnataka Assembly.
The call for a bandh given by the Karnataka Raitha Sangha (Karnataka Farmers' Association) and other farmer organisations was supported by the Congress, JD(S), Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) and the Left parties.