Amid a statewide Covid lockdown, thousands of farmers today set off from Karnal, Haryana, for Delhi, where they plan to observe May 26 as 'Black Day', marking six months of their protest against three central farm laws. Reports have also emerged of many from Sangrur, Punjab, leaving for the national capital.
Led by Bharat Kisan Union (BKU) leader Gurnam Singh Charuni, the famers set off from the Bastada toll plaza, heading in hundreds of vehicles for the Singhu border point near Delhi. They will perform langar seva for a week after reaching their destination, the farmer leader said. Visuals from Karnal showed many of the farmers, either wearing no masks or wearing them improperly, and raising slogans.
"The farmers have set off from Karnal so that the agitation in various districts of Delhi is well represented," Mr Charuni said.
Haryana is under a lockdown due to the recent surge in Covid cases in the state. The state government has blamed the farmers protesting along Haryana's borders for the surge in rural areas. The Centre has also highlighted the spread of infection in rural Punjab.
The BKU has also said that thousands more have left Khanauri Border in Sagrur, Punjab, to join the protesters at the Tikri Border point near Delhi.
Under the leaderdhip of BKU Ekta Ugrahan, Thousands of farmers leaving from Khanauri Border in Chardi kala to join their fellows at Tikri Border,Delhi.#FarmersFightFascistModi#FarmersProtestpic.twitter.com/rKMKJ0v2IX— BKU EKTA UGRAHAN (@Bkuektaugrahan) May 23, 2021
Thousands of farmers have, for the past many months, been protesting against the Central government's three agricultural laws passed last year: the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
Besides their roll-back, the farmers also want a new law made to guarantee minimum support price for crops.
They have camped along various points like Kundli and Singhu along Delhi's border, refusing to back off despite the ongoing Covid crisis in the country.
Hitting back at allegations that the protest may prove disastrous amid the pandemic, Mr Charuni today said it was the government that was spreading the infection.
"The government is blaming the farmers only to hide its own ineptitude. It has no ambulances, beds, or hospitals. We have our own compulsions, but why is the government organising programmes where crowds gather?" he said.
The BKU leader also reiterated the farmers' stance that they are ready for talks. On Friday, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of over 40 farmer unions, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to resume talks.