Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad on Tuesday joined the agitating farmers who have been camping outside Delhi to press for their demand of repealing the Centre's farm laws. In an interview with NDTV, he said the outfit will extend support from "outside" but the protest will be led by farmers. Mr Azad, an emerging Dalit leader in Uttar Pradesh politics, slammed the Centre for using watercannons and tear gas on farmers marching to the national capital from Punjab last week, and said the government is "afraid" of the farmers' movement.
"The Centre tried to defame and stop the farmers' agitation...Our mothers, children, elderly were stopped (from marching to Delhi) with watercannons, barbed wires, tear gas...they (farmers) are not terrorists, they are the backbone of our country. We get food because of them...Such treatment (to farmers) shows how afraid the government is of the farmers' movement," he said.
The farmers on Sunday rejected the Centre's early talk offer that hinged on the condition that the protests must be moved to a government-designated spot in outer Delhi's Burari. They, however, accepted Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar's invite for "unconditional" talks on Tuesday.
"They (the government) are talking because they thought farmers would not come to Delhi. Where should farmers go if they can't come to the national capital?...They are now witnessing democracy's biggest power: opposition," he added.
Mr Azad alleged the Centre wants to "destroy farmers with these three laws."
He alleged the government wants to grab the farmers' land and give it to industrialists.
Last week thousands of farmers from Punjab marched to Delhi, braving police's lathicharges, watercannons and tear gas shells on the way. The Centre, which looks after the national capital's law and order, blocked them from entering the city, later saying the protests be moved to the designated spot.
The unrelenting farmers, however, are still camping at several Delhi borders, blocking crucial highways.
The Centre's new laws allow farmers to sell their crops outside designated farm markets -- which was illegal earlier -- eliminating middlemen. The farmers say certain provisions of the laws will make them susceptible to exploitation from corporate houses.