Farmers protests: The protesters have threatened to block five entry points to Delhi (File)
- Farmers' meeting with the centre has been advanced by two days
- The protesters have threatened to block five entry points to Delhi
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke in defence of the farm laws
The centre has called farmers for talks today, two days ahead of the scheduled date of December 3, as hundreds of farmers trickled in from Punjab at two borders of Delhi. Making the announcement, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar cited cold and coronavirus. There was no precondition. Farmers' organisations have said more people from Amritsar region, who had stayed back to celebrate Gurpurab, are likely to reach the border by today. The protesters have threatened to block five entry points to Delhi On Monday, Union minister Amit Shah met Mr Tomar - the second meet within 24 hours - after protesting farmers rejected the proposal of early talks that hinged on them shifting their protest venue.
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"On November 13, we had decided we will meet on December 3, but farmers are in a mood to protest," Union minister Narendra Tomar said. "It is cold and there is coronavirus. Hence we invite the kisan union heads to Vigyan Bhawan on December 1 at 3 pm. We request you to leave the protest and find a solution through discussion," he added. Amit Shah, meanwhile, has cancelled his visit to the Border Raising Day function today. "An important meeting has come up," government sources said.
One of the protesters died on Sunday night after suffering a heart attack -- the second since the farmers' march to Delhi started last week. Farmer Gajjan Singh from a Khattra, a village in Ludhiana district of Punjab, died at Tikri border, where a large number of protesters have assembled. His health had deteriorated due to the extreme cold. This has been the coldest November in 71 years.
The Delhi Police tweeted on Monday evening to say the Singhu border is still closed from both sides. Tikri border, too, is closed for traffic movement. Traffic has been diverted in both areas. There is no blockade at Ghazipur, the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, and protests are on at the area. The farmers stationed at Delhi's Burari ground conducted a "Rosh march" sloganeering against the government and the farm laws.
All khaps of Haryana have unanimously decided to support the farmers' protest and will proceed towards Delhi today. "We request the centre to re-consider farm laws. Everyone has a right to express themselves," Sombir Sangwan, Haryana Khap Pradhan and Dadri MLA, was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke in defense of the farm laws again on Monday. "I know that decades of falsehood do put apprehensions in the minds of farmers... I want to say this from the bank of Mother Ganga - we are not working with the intention of deceiving. Our intentions are as holy as the water of river Ganga," he said at a programme in Varanasi.
The protesters - who have braved water cannons, tear gas and police barricades in the last few days - have threatened to block the roads to Delhi from five entry points: Sonipat, Rohtak, Jaipur, Ghaziabad-Hapur, and Mathura. The protest, which has been planned for over two months, has the support of 500 farmers' organisations. Farm union leaders claim around 3 lakh farmers are participating in the protest march.
The Delhi Police have filed a case on the clash at the Singhu border in Delhi, including rioting and damage to government property. The case was filed at the Alipur police station under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including obstruction to public servants while performing their duty.
On November 27, farmers who were holding a demonstration at the Singhu border, tried to enter Delhi, breaking barricades. They had allegedly thrown stones at the police and had damaged government property. The police used tear gas and force to control the crowd. In the clash, four policemen were hurt. A sub-inspector, Yogendra Singh, was also attacked with a sword.
On Sunday night, Amit Shah met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Mr Tomar at BJP chief JP Nadda's house to discuss the situation, sources said. On Saturday, Mr Shah had said the government was ready to deliberate on "every problem and demand" but the protest will have to be shifted to a designated venue if the farmers wanted to hold early discussions.
For nearly three months, the farmers have been up in arms against the farm laws, aimed at bringing reforms by doing away with middlemen and improving farmers' earnings by allowing them to sell produce anywhere in the country. Farmers and opposition parties allege that the laws will deprive the farmers of guaranteed minimum price for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporates.