- Thousands of farmers protesting near Delhi borders since last week
- Union Ministers Narendra Tomar, Piyush Goyal leading talks
- Farm laws will not be repealed, the protesters are likely to be told
Here are 10 developments in this big story:
Agriculture minister Narendra Tomar, his cabinet colleague Piyush Goyal and junior industry minister Som Prakash are meeting the 35-member team of farmers. The meeting, at Delhi's Vigyan Bhawan, started shortly after 3 pm.
Earlier today, the farmers said they have agreed to attend the talks as the government called them without any precondition. "We'll demand the new laws be repealed and a law be brought on MSP. If the government doesn't agree, the protests will continue," Jagjit Singh Dallewal of the Bharatiya Kisan Union said.
Three days ahead of the scheduled meet, Mr Tomar on Monday invited the farmers for talks, citing coronavirus and cold. "On November 13, we decided we'll meet on December 3, but farmers are in a mood to protest. We request you to leave the protest and find a solution through talks," he said. Mr Tomar has met Amit Shah thrice in two days, as per sources, after farmers threatened to block Delhi.
Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav, who was part of a seven-member committee of farmers, backed out from the government negotiations after the centre reportedly objected to any activists attending the talks, as per sources. Mr Yadav, however, said the negotiations must continue. He was detained last week as the protests escalated.
This is the third round of talks between the farmers and the government in the last few months. The first round was chaired by Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Aggarwal. The second round of meeting was co-chaired by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on November 13. The meeting lasted for seven hours. In a long charter of demands, the farmers stressed on repealing of the contentious laws. The talks are expected to move forward today.
On Sunday, the farmers had said they will block five entry points to Delhi: Sonipat, Rohtak, Jaipur, Ghaziabad-Hapur, and Mathura. The protest - planned for over two months - is said to be supported by around 3 lakh farmers. "We have a one-point demand - to repeal the three new farm laws. That's the only discussion we want. Centre trying to divert our attention with small talk, hence the resistance," Hannan Mollah, one of the leaders, told NDTV today.
Amit Shah on Saturday had said the government was ready to deliberate on "every problem and demand" of the protesters. The Home Minister, however, had said the protest will have to be shifted to a designated venue for early discussions. As the farmers refused the offer the next day, top BJP leaders held a late-night meeting at JP Nadda's house on Sunday to discuss the issue, sources said.
As farmers continue to camp around Delhi borders, key roads near neighbouring Haryana remain closed. The Delhi Police has told commuters to take alternate routes as Sighu Border and Tikri border remain shut. Numbers are likely to swell at the borders, and the cops have been told to show restraint, officials have told NDTV.
In Haryana, trouble is brewing for the BJP with its ally after the party of Dushyant Chautala, the Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana, said the government must think big and find a solution to the farmers' demands. Haryana was criticised last week over the handling of the protests. All khaps in the state have unanimously decided to support the farmers. "We request government to re-consider farm laws. Everyone has a right to express themselves," Sombir Sangwan, Haryana Khap Pradhan and Dadri MLA. said yesterday.
Thousands of farmers, who have braved water cannons, tear gas and police barricades, began their protest last week against the farm laws, aimed at doing away with middlemen and allow them to sell produce anywhere in the country. Farmers and opposition parties allege the laws will deprive the farmers of minimum support price and leave them at the mercy of corporates. Ex-Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, BSP chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav have backed the protesters in their tweets.