- Forty farm unions will hold a meeting today at 2 PM
- Centre on Sunday told farmers to choose next date for talks
- Today's meet comes after PM attacked opposition over farm laws
Here is your ten-point cheat sheet on this big story:
In a news conference, the farmers said the agenda of the meeting will include demands to lay out a process to repeal the three farm laws and amendments to be made to an ordinance on air pollution to exclude farmers from punishment. They said changes should be made to the draft Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 to protect the interests of farmers.
The farmers' meet began a little after 3 PM today at Singhu border between Delhi and Haryana, the epicentre of the agitation. They later proposed in the letter to the government that the talks be held at 11 AM on Tuesday. "You, in your letter, say the government wants to listen to farmers respectfully. If you really want that then stop making misleading remarks regarding our demands and stop using the entire government system to spread negative publicity against the protesting farmers," the letter read.
The government on Sunday had asked the protesters to choose the date for next round of talks. Referring to the centre's letter, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka had said: "The new letter is nothing but propaganda against us... to give the impression that we are not interested in talks."
On Thursday, leaders representing the forty farmers' unions said the government "is not serious about our demands". "The government should put repeal of the laws on the agenda for fresh dialogue," Mr Kakka was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
PM Modi on Friday accused the opposition of "spreading lies and rumours about farmers' troubles". "Across the country, farmers have been supporting the new agricultural laws. Those with political motives...are firing the gun from the farmers' shoulders," PM Modi said. He also targeted West Bengal Mamata Banerjee for blocking a central scheme.
The Prime Minister, while reassuring the farmers about the minimum support price (MSP) for their produce, said: "I ask even those opposing me today, that my government is ready to talk to them on farmer issues...I urge our farmers to not be misled by anyone." Friday's outreach by the ruling BJP to over 9 crore farmers was the biggest so far amid protests.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday urged farmers to "let the new laws be implemented for a year or so", adding that the government will be ready to amend them if they are not found to be beneficial to farmers.
A group of BJP leaders in Punjab's Phagwara had to slip out from the backdoor under police protection on Friday after farmers protesting the central government's new agricultural laws picketed a hotel that they were holding an event in. A large number of farmers protesting near Delhi borders are from Punjab.
Earlier this week, the farmers began a relay hunger strike to add pressure as they continue to demand the repeal of laws. A group of 11 fasts every day for 24 hours.
Many opposition leaders including ex-Congress chief Rahul Gandhi have lent their voice to the farmers' agitation, which happens to be the biggest in the last few years. The 50-year-old leader met President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday over the issue. Chief Ministers of Punjab, Delhi, Kerala and West Bengal have also voiced concerns over the new laws.