As more farm factions back stir, team set up to aid coordination | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

As more farm factions back stir, team set up to aid coordination

By, New Delhi
Feb 24, 2024 07:48 AM IST

Farmers' protests intensify at Punjab-Haryana border as factions unite, demanding justice for deceased protester. March to Delhi to resume soon.

A tense farmers’ uprising that has gripped the Punjab-Haryana border could get bigger with more factions sealing talks to join the protests, leaders associated with the movement said on Friday.

Farmers burn effigies during the 'Black Day' protest at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border, in Patiala district. (PTI)
Farmers burn effigies during the 'Black Day' protest at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border, in Patiala district. (PTI)

Refusing to back down on a host of agricultural demands, even as the farmers extended their halt on their march to Delhi till February 29 and turned their focus on the death of a protester earlier this week, farm unions held talks to forge unity between various factions, forming an 11-member team, a prominent leader said after marathon discussions.

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“The current agitation will get bigger and the march to Delhi will resume once demands to grant martyr status for deceased farmer Shubh Karan Singh is acceded to, his post-mortem is carried out and a case is lodged against Haryana Police (accused of firing on the protester),” Sarwan Singh Pandher, leader of Kisan Mazdoor Sangh Committee (KSMC), said.

Shubh Karan Singh died after he was hit by a bullet allegedly fired by Haryana Police during the agitation at Khanauri on Punjab-Haryana border on Wednesday. The farmers have said that they will not allow an autopsy or the cremation of the 21-year-old man till Punjab Police files a case against the police in Haryana, which they blame for the fatality.

The farmers, who have converged on two points along the interstate border since February 13, are seeking legal guarantees for higher crop prices, relaxation of strict environmental regulations, pensions and withdrawal of police cases filed against them during the 2020-21 farmers’ protests against the now-repealed three agricultural laws.

Farmers from Punjab are being led by two influential groups: the KSMC and the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political; SKM-NP). The protesters have already made two rounds of efforts to march towards the national capital, after multiple rounds of talks with the government over their demands failed to yield desired results.

On Wednesday, the farmers had briefly stalled their protests for two days, till Friday. On Friday, they decided to extend their pause till February 29.

The protester’s death appeared to galvanise disparate farm unions as cultivator groups upped the ante of their two-week-long protests, demanding murder charges against the police, chief minister and home minister of Haryana, and announcing a slew of new joint programmes.

On Friday, a prominent Haryana-based farm union Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni), led by Gurnam Singh Charuni, that was part of the 2020-21 agitation, held parleys to join the current agitation with their Punjab counterparts. Charuni is part of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha.

“There is negativity spreading in farmers because they want all factions to work together,” said Charuni, one of the original leaders of the 2020-21 farm protests. “Therefore, an 11-member team will coordinate between Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) and SKM-NP.”

Pandher, one of the firebrand leaders who started the current agitation, slammed the Punjab government for not pressing charges against Haryana Police, who he alleged had fired on the protesters, killing one of them and critically injuring several others. The family of the deceased protester has rejected a compensation of 1 crore and a government job because they want accountability for the killing, he said.

A key member of the farmers’ negotiating team, Ramandeep Singh Mann, said farmers would not allow the post-mortem of their dead colleague until a martyr status is accorded to Shubh Karan Singh.

The farm unions and a panel of ministers, led by Union food minister Piyush Goyal, had earlier met on February 8, 12, 15 and 18 but in vain. The fifth round of talks between the two sides could not be held on Wednesday following the death of the protester in the alleged firing by Haryana Police.

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    Zia Haq reports on public policy, economy and agriculture. Particularly interested in development economics and growth theories.

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