Farmers have been protesting against the centre's agriculture laws since November last year (File)
Farmers protesting the agriculture laws say they are willing to hold talks with the centre to resolve the weeks-long stand-off, but have taken exception to a remark by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that refers to "andolan jeevi (professional protesters)" who have hijacked their nationwide protests.
"We have never refused to hold talks... Whenever the government has called us we held discussions with Union Ministers. We are ready for talks with them," farmer leader Shivkumar Kakka told news agency PTI.
However, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which represents around 40 farmer unions and in which Mr Kakka is one of the senior figures, said the Prime Minister's remark amounted to "insulting of (the) farmers", and recalled that "it is andolans that have liberated India from colonial rulers, and that is why we are proud to be andolan jeevi".
"It is the BJP and its predecessors that never did any andolan against the Britishers... they were always against the andolans (and) they are still scared of public movements. Farmers will be more than happy to get back to farming if the government accepts their legitimate demands... it is the government's adamant attitude that is creating more andolan jeevis," the farmers' body said.
"Agitation has an important role in democracy. People have a right to oppose the government's wrong policies," Mr Kakka said.
Earlier on Monday the Prime Minister told the Rajya Sabha of the need to "protect" India from "parasites that feast on every agitation".
"... a new entity has come up in this country - 'andolan jeevi'... can be spotted wherever there is a protest... sometimes at the forefront and sometimes from behind. They cannot live without protests. They are parasites," the Prime Minister was quoted by news agency ANI.
"We have to identify such people and protect the nation from them," he added.
Lakhs of farmers across India are protesting against the centre's new agriculture laws (File)
The centre has frequently made similar allegations, claiming that the farmers have been led astray by "Khalistani" or separatist elements. Last month it told the Supreme Court it had intelligence inputs suggesting "Khalistanis" had infiltrated the protests.
More recently the centre has cited tweets by international celebrities - beginning with pop star Rihanna, American model Amanda Cerny and Lebanese-American former adult film star Mia Khalifa - as part of a campaign to defame the country.
All three, and others, have tweeted in support of the farmers and their right to protest peacefully.
The Prime Minister appeared to refer to this in his address to parliament - he spoke about foreign destructive ideologies (FDI) and said: "We need to be more aware to save the country..."
The farmers denied any connection to the Prime Minister's FDI, but said they "stand with constructive democratic processes that uphold basic human rights anywhere in the world... expect reciprocation from like-minded citizens around the world".
Eleven rounds of talks have been held so far. Farmers insist they want the three agriculture laws scrapped and also a legal guarantee for the MSP (minimum support price) system.
The centre insists the laws will benefit farmers and is unwilling to repeal them. It has, however, offered an 18-month stay and a verbal assurance that MSPs won't be removed.
The Prime Minister said in parliament: "MSP was there, it is there and will remain."
The farmers, however, are skeptical, and said "empty statements on MSP will not benefit farmers... Farmers will benefit... only if MSP is made into a legal guarantee for all crops".
On Saturday, farmers held a three-hour chakka jam in various parts of the country, after which Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said they would not leave till their demands were met.
With input from ANI, PTI