Farmers have made the country "atmanirbhar" (self-reliant) but they are being made to suffer through the new farm laws, Congress's Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said today at a farmers' meeting in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
The kisan mahapanchayat is being held in the face of prohibitory orders banning large gatherings by the district administration. The orders were passed this morning in the state, which has been emerging as a new hotspot for the protest against the Centre's three farm laws that was initially powered by the farmers of Punjab and Haryana.
The government does not understand farmers or what they stand for, said Ms Gandhi Vadra, who is attending the mahapanchayat as part of the party's 10-day "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan" campaign that will be held in 27 districts of the state. The party has been vociferously supporting the farmers' protest and Uttar Pradesh, where state elections are due next year, has become a new area of focus.
"They (the government) call the farmers anti-national, but in reality, it is them who are anti-national," she said.
"They call farmers agitators, extremists, and terrorists. They doubt the farmers, but the heart of the farmer can never be against the nation. The farmer's heart, his work itself is for the land. Farmers till the land, work day and night on the land. How can they betray the nation?" added the Congress general secretary.
"The Prime Minister had time to go to Pakistan, he had time to go to China, but he did not have time to visit the bordering areas of his own constituency and meet farmers," she said, pointing out that it was the farmers who had voted for him.
"The Prime Minister himself insults farmers, that too in Parliament, by calling them 'andolanjeevi' (one who lives for agitation)," Ms Gandhi Vadra said, flagging the term used by PM Modi in context of the protests.
Replying to the Presidential address on Monday, the Prime Minister had hit out at those behind the protests.
"There is a new crop of 'andolanjeevi'. They live for protests. They look for ways to start a new movement...The country needs to be aware of these 'andolanjeevi'," he had said.
With the BJP frequently pointing to the Congress as instigators to farmers, many in parliament, starting with former Union minister P Chidambaram, had flaunted it as a badge of honour.