NEW DELHI: Farmers protesting against the three central farm laws decided on Tuesday to campaign against the BJP in the four states and one Union Territory going to elections from this month onwards. They have also announced a calendar of events to protest against the agri-marketing laws legislated by the BJP-led NDA government at the centre in September last year.
Here are the key developments of the day:
1. Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is spearheading anti-farm law protests in Delhi, will send its leaders to poll-bound states to appeal to farmers there to defeat the BJP in assembly elections, leaders of the outfit said. The protesting farmers will also block the KMP (Western Peripheral) Expressway on March 6 as the anti-farm law protest at Delhi borders completes 100 days. The expressway will be blocked at various points for five hours from 11 am on March 6, SKM leader Yogendra Yadav said. He said SKM leaders will hold a public meeting in Kolkata on March 12 to appeal to the farmers of poll-bound states to punish the BJP. SKM leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said that SKM teams will visit poll-bound states, including West Bengal and Kerala, to appeal to farmers to defeat the BJP. “We will not seek votes for any party. We will appeal to them to vote for those candidates who can defeat the BJP which has failed to address farmers’ issues,” Rajewal said at a joint press conference of the SKM at Singhu border.
2. A 28-year-old man was arrested for allegedly blocking actor Ajay Devgn‘s car outside Film City in Goregaon and demanding to know why the latter had not spoken out in support of farmers protesting against the centre’s new agri-marketing laws, Mumbai police said. Rajdeep Singh, a resident of Santosh Nagar locality in the northern suburb, is a driver originally hailing from Punjab, one of the states from which a large number of farmers have gathered near Delhi for the protests, said an official. “The incident took place around 10:30am. Singh stopped Devgn’s car and demanded to know why the actor had not spoken in support of the protesting farmers. A complaint was lodged by Devgn’s bodyguard Pradeep Indrasen Gautam after which Singh was arrested,” the Dindoshi police station official said. Singh was charged under IPC sections 341 (wrongful restraint) 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation), said Senior Inspector Dharmendra Kamble of Dindoshi police station.
3. Opposition Samajwadi Party members staged a walkout from the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council over the farm laws and demanded that these be scrapped. They raised the issue of farmers’ protest during zero hour and pressed for the immediate admission of their adjournment notice to discuss the issue. They also referred to the Uttar Pradesh Krishi Mandi Sanshodhan Adhiniyam, 2018 (Uttar Pradesh Agriculture Mandi Amendment Act, 2018) saying the law reduced the importance of ‘mandis’ (wholesale grain markets). As agriculture minister Surya Pratap Shahi tried to defend the Centre’s laws and backed the measures of the Yogi Adityanath government for the welfare of farmers, SP members voiced dissatisfaction over his reply and staged a walkout. The House Council also passed the bill related to recovery of damages to public and private properties from protesters by voice vote.
4. The Akali Dal brought up in the Punjab Assembly the suicide of a debt-ridden farmer and his son and demanded the registration of a case against chief minister Amarinder Singh as his government had “failed” to waive farm loans. The two farmers had left a suicide note saying they were distressed over the new farm laws and also accused Punjab’s Congress government of failing to waive their loans. Raising the issue during zero hour, SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia demanded the registration of a case against Amarinder Singh, state Congress president Sunil Jakhar and cooperatives minister Sukhjinder Randhawa, claiming that they had “cheated” the two farmers. Majithia was referring to the Congress poll promise to waive farm loans in Punjab. Jagtar Singh (70) and his son Kirpal Singh (42) had allegedly consumed some poisonous substance at their home in Hoshiarpur’s Dasuya area on February 20. The MLA claimed that the two suicide victims had held the state government squarely responsible as their loan was not written off.
5. BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis trained guns at the Maharashtra government, suggesting it was trying to probe icons like Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar over their pro-India tweets issued after some foreign celebrities talked about farmers’ protest near Delhi. Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh promptly refuted the charge in the state assembly, saying the state government has ordered a probe into tweets by the BJP’s IT cell and not by cricketer Tendulkar and legendary singer Mangeshkar. On February 8, Deshmukh said the state intelligence department will conduct a probe into allegations that some celebrities were pressurised recently to issue tweets in connection with the ongoing farmers’ protest. Deshmukh had made the remarks on an online platform after the Congress, a ruling coalition partner in Maharashtra, sought an investigation into the BJP’s alleged connection with tweets of some celebrities and whether the saffron party “arm-twisted” them. A number of prominent personalities, including Tendulkar and Mangeshkar, had rallied around the central government on social media using hashtags #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda. This came after tweets by American pop star Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg backing farmers who are protesting near Delhi’s border points against three farm laws.
6. The Delhi Police on Tuesday afternoon closed the Ghazipur border again, hours after it reopened a portion of NH-9 for traffic movement, officials said. The stretch was closed since January 26 when violence broke out during the farmers’ tractor parade in the national capital on Republic Day. The one side of the road which goes towards Ghaziabad from Delhi was opened for traffic in the morning. Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at the Delhi border points – Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur – demanding a repeal of the three farm laws.
7. Farmers in a Mathura village destroyed crops in a four-acre area to protest the contentious farm laws. The incident occurred at Umraya village of Chhata subdivision. “With the consent of majority of villagers, crops grown in the four-acre area were ploughed,” RLD state vice president Kunwar Narendra Singh said. He claimed that such acts by farmers would lead to acute shortage of cereals, forcing the government to go for import. “Repeal the three farm laws without further delay to prevent such suicidal steps of the farmers,” Singh demanded, “We are forced to take such steps as the government is not understanding our problem,” Megh Shyam, a farmer of the village, said. Sub-divisional magistrate Hanuman Maurya said no such incident had come to his notice, advising the farmers to desist from taking such steps.
8. A court in the capital granted a week’s time to the Delhi Police to file a reply to the anticipatory bail plea of Nikita Jacob, a co-accused along with Disha Ravi in connection with allegedly being involved in sharing a “toolkit” on social media related to the farmers’ protest. Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana allowed the police plea to grant it time till March 9 after the public prosecutor said the agency needed time to file a detailed reply to Jacob’s plea. The court is scheduled to hear the anticipatory bail plea of another co-accused, Shantanu Muluk, on March 9. During the brief hearing held through video conferencing, senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Jacob, said she wanted to argue on her plea as a stand alone case and not with Muluk’s. The court said she could argue on March 9.
(With agency inputs)