Hours after the Supreme Court put on hold three controversial farm laws and set up a committee of experts to handle negotiations to end a huge agitation, protesting farmers welcomed one half of the order and rejected the other. Farmers' groups this evening said they would not accept the committee, which they said included members who had favoured the centre's laws.
"We don't accept this committee, all the members in this committee have been pro-government and these members have been justifying the laws," said Punjab farmers' unions, declaring that they would amp up their protests across the country.
"We think the government is bringing this committee through the Supreme Court. The committee is just a way of divert attention," said Balbir Singh Rajewal of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (R) told reporters at Singhu border outside Delhi, one of the sites where farmers have been protesting against the farm laws for over a month.
The groups said even if the members of committee were replaced, they would not take part in discussions with committee.
"It's a good thing that the implementation of laws has been put on hold. It is a welcome decision but this was our right and we will accept nothing less than the repeal of farm laws," they said.
On the Supreme Court's advice on removing the elderly and women from the protest sites, Mr Rajewal said: "Seniors don't want to leave the protest site. No one will leave the protest sites till the laws are repealed."
The farmers said they would go ahead with their planned protest in Delhi on January 26, the day the national celebrates Republic Day, despite the Supreme Court's notice. The government had expressed concern about "an embarrassment to the nation" if the protests disrupted the Republic Day parade.
"Our 26th January programme is going to be completely peaceful. There are some people spreading rumours that we are going to the Red Fort or parliament. How the march will happen will be decided after January 15. We will never tolerate violence," said the unions.
A joint front of almost 40 farmer organisations, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, has threatened that farmers will march into Delhi on January 26 with their tractors and take out a "farmers' Republic Day parade" after the official parade.
The government says the laws aim to modernise a farming system vexed by wastage and bottlenecks in the supply chain. But farmers say the reforms are an attempt to erode a longstanding mechanism that ensures them minimum support price for their crops. In eight rounds of talks, the government has rejected demands to repeal the laws.
The two sides are set to meet again on Friday.