Thousands of farmers gathered for a "mahapanchayat" in Baghpat's Baraut in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday as farmers' protests continue against the new farm laws at Delhi's borders.
The "sarv khap mahapanchayat" took place at the Tehsil ground here with farmers pouring in from nearby districts as well in tractor-trollies, many of which were decked up with music systems, the tricolor and farmer unions' flags.
This is the third mahapanchayat of farmers in the region after a massive congregation in Muzaffarnagar on Friday and in Mathura on Saturday, both resolving to support the ongoing Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU)-led protest at the Ghazipur border against the three new farm laws.
"The movement has to be continued with full strength," BKU leader Rajendra Chaudhary told the crowd.
The mahapanchayat is also deliberating on the January 26 police action against farmers protesting in Baghpat district against the new central farm laws, a local Baraut resident, who is attending the event, told news agency Press Trust of India.
Chaudhary Surendra Singh of the Desh Khap and Chaudhary Subhash Singh of the Chaubisi Khap are among key regional farmer leaders attending Sunday's sarv khap mahapanchayat, where supporters of Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) were also present.
A khap is a traditional social council representing a community or a region in parts of north India with a Chaudhary as its titular head.
"Beshak Dilli mein police walon ne kisano ko dande maare hon, par hum aaj bhi bolte hain ''Jai Jawan Jai Kisan'' (No doubt policemen hit farmers with batons in Delhi. But, we are saying: hail soldiers, hail farmers)," a local leader told the crowd.
"Whatever happens, we will respond with non-violence and not violence. Our leaders at protest sites and our panch (leaders of the panchayat) will make decisions and we all will follow them," he added.
The farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and parts of UP, have been protesting at Delhi's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporations.
However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.