Protesting farmers reject Amit Shah's offer on venue change
Farmers protesting against the Centre's contentious farm laws have rejected Union Home Minister Amit Shah's condition of changing the venue of their demonstration. Shah had earlier said that to meet the farmers' demand of an early discussion over their grievances, they would have to move their protest to a designated spot. The farmers said they will continue to sit on the borders of Delhi.
The decision to reject the government's offer was taken after a meeting of a seven-member committee of farmers on Sunday morning. The committee includes Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav. The farmers said the government should approach with an open heart without conditions. The government has said that it will speak to farmers' unions on December 3, however, the farmers demand an early discussion.
The farmers also fear that the government-approved protest site—Nirankari Samagam Ground in Delhi's Burari—could be converted into a jail. The fear stems from the fact that the Delhi Police had earlier suggested converting stadiums into jails. The suggestion was rejected by the Delhi government.
Shah had said Saturday, "If farmers' unions want to hold discussions before December 3, then I want to assure you all that as soon as you shift your protest to a structured place, the government will hold talks to address your concerns the very next day." However, farmers' organizations had expressed reservations about the offer even before the meeting on Sunday morning.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi backed the new laws during his 'Mann ki Baat' address. Ignoring the protests, he said the laws had "unshackled" farmers and given them new rights and opportunities. He also stressed the importance of "complete and correct knowledge" during his address. Meanwhile, at the Delhi-Haryana border near Narela, protesting farmers broke barricades to enter the national capital.
Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh had moved towards Delhi as part of the 'Dilli Chalo' protest and reached the national capital on Friday. The farmers—undeterred by water cannons, teargas, and police barricades—said they wish to address their grievances over the laws with the government. The farmers said they have come prepared with provisions to camp in Delhi for months.
The farmers have been protesting against three controversial laws, which were passed by the Centre in September despite months of protests. While the government has said the laws would free farmers from the clutches of middlemen, the community fears the government would stop the system of buying grain at guaranteed prices. This would leave them at the mercy of big corporates.