"Is Punjab Pakistan?" NCP chief Sharad Pawar asked a sea of farmers at Mumbai's Azad Maidan where they had gathered today in support of their comrades camped in protest in and around Delhi. Hailing them for having come to the city all the way from Nashik, in solidarity with those gearing up for a massive tractor ally in the national capital, the senior leader condemned the Union government's view of those agitating.
"We have seen for the past 60 days, without bothering about the cold, the sun, or rain, the farmers from UP, Haryana, and Punjab have been protesting. They (Centre) say these are Punjab farmers. Is Punjab Pakistan? They are our own," said Mr Pawar. His Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is a part of the Shiv Sena-led ruling coalition in Maharashtra, along with the Congress.
He slammed the way the three agricultural laws, against which the farmers are protesting, were passed in Parliament apparently without much discussion. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, he said, did not listen to the opposition when it demanded a debate, even though all top leaders were present in Parliament at the time.
"We said 'send it (the laws) to a select committee where people of all parties are there'. But the Central government said, 'No discussion. We came with this and we will pass it without discussion. You all have come here to support'," Mr Pawar recalled, pointing at how the farmers have turned the tables on the government.
"Today every farmer is saying first repeal these laws and then we can discuss."
The 80-year-old recalled how Mumbai had witnessed multiple agitations since pre-independence and how the farmers gathered today represented only the latest in a long chain of protests.
"This government is trying to destroy farmers. And you have shown by your strength that you can topple such a government," Mr Pawar said.
Referring to the protester's plan to march to the Governor's residence, he took potshots at Bhagat Singh Koshyari for heading to Goa, a state he holds additional charge of, at a time when the peasants were looking to submit a memorandum to him against the farm laws. "You all are going to the Governor. But Maharashtra has not seen such a Governor before. He has time to meet Kangana Ranaut but not farmers. He should have been here to speak to you but he is not," the former Union Minister said.
Earlier, speaking to the protesting farmers, Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had appointed a committee to find a solution. "We will try to pass a law in the state that is for farmers not against them," he said.
Hundreds of farmers from Nashik, affiliated with the All India Kisan Sabha and other organisations, reached Azad Maidan on Sunday evening. They plan to march towards Delhi in support of their comrades there.