Farmers protesting the centre's farm laws will take part in an indefinite, relay hunger strike starting Monday, Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav, who is one of the leaders of the protest, said late this evening. Mr Yadav also called on people to "bang thalis during PM Modi's next Mann ki Baat (due next Sunday)" to ask the Prime Minister "when will you listen to our (the farmers') baat".
Monday's indefinite relay hunger strike will be the third major national event staged by the farmers - after last week's "Bharat bandh" and an earlier hunger strike, both of which drew widespread support from opposition parties - in their fight to get the contentious laws scrapped.
"Five major announcements were made by the farmers today. First, starting Monday we will hold an indefinite relay hunger strike here, in which 11 people will take it in turns to fast for 24 hours each," Mr Yadav told NDTV.
"The second announcement is that on December 23, which is Kisan Diwas (Farmers' Day), to honour the men and women who put food on your table for three meals a day, please fast for one meal. This is our humble appeal," he added.
Mr Yadav also said on December 26 and 27 farmer groups would send letters to BJP allies (those who are members of the NDA) to withdraw their support. On the same days, the farmers also requested Indians living abroad to approach their respective embassies and urge the centre to withdraw the agriculture laws.
The fifth and final announcement, Mr Yadav said, was the request to bang thalis during the Prime Minister's Mann ki Baat speech.
"Finally, on December 27 when the Prime Minister gives his Mann Ki Baat radio address, farmers will say 'we are tired of listening to your Mann ki Baat, when will you listen to our Mann ki Baat?' So we will bang utensils so that the noise of his Mann ki Baat doesn't reach us," he explained.
The farmers' Mann ki Baat request is a reference to the Prime Minister asking people in March to bang thalis to show support for frontline workers in the battle against the novel coronavirus.
Meanwhile, in today's press briefing the farmers also hit out at IT raids on commission agents, known as Arhityas, who are supporting them in their agitation against the agriculture laws.
"We have never taken money from industrialists, political parties or Arhtiyas. These (the funds in question) are our supporters' money from whom we asked for help. We will provide them a reply to the warning if they ask," Joginder Ugraha, the chief of BKU (Ugrahan), said.
The protest entered its 25th day today, which was dubbed Shradhanjali Diwas, with an emotional tribute to the 29 lives reportedly lost since the thousands of farmers braved lathi charges and tear gassing to march on Delhi late last month.
At Singhu, prayers were read out before posters of the 29 individuals. Another poster said the farmers would not rest before achieving that for which their brothers and sisters had died.
Multiple rounds of talks between the farmers and the centre have failed, with neither side willing to budge from their positions. The farmers want the laws scrapped and the centre is only open to amending more problematic sections. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar is due to meet the farmers this week for yet more talks, according to news agency PTI.
Voted through parliament in September with little debate, the centre says the laws give farmers extra options to sell their produce. The farmers, however, fear the loss of MSP (minimum support price) and even their livelihoods once corporate houses enter the market.
With input from PTI