Rakesh Tikait speaks at the Kisan Mahapanchayat at Jind in Haryana | Photo: PTI
Jind (Haryana): In a show of strength by protesting farmers, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait on Wednesday addressed a massive rally and warned the government it could find it difficult to stay on in power if the new agri-marketing laws are not repealed.
Just before Tikait was to begin his speech at the ''mahapanchayat'' in Kandela village, the makeshift stage on which the farmer leaders had gathered collapsed under their weight.
Nobody was reported hurt and Tikait went on to address the gathering. But the episode triggered a commotion and he and the event organisers had to repeatedly tell people to maintain calm.
Calling for a “wapsi” (withdrawal) of the new central laws, Tikait indirectly warned the Narendra Modi government that it could lose its “gaddi” (power) if the agitation continues.
“We have so far talked about "bill wapsi" (repealing the farm laws). The government should listen carefully. What will you do if the youth call for “gaddi wapsi” (removal from power)?” he said.
He asked the Centre to repeal the three laws and frame a new one to assure continuation of the minimum support price (MSP) system.
The BKU leader from Uttar Pradesh has been camping at Ghazipur on the Delhi-UP border as part of a campaign by farmer unions against the central laws enacted in September.
Farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, are also massed at Tikri and Singhu on the Delhi-Haryana border for two months.
After violence on Republic Day, police barricaded these protest sites with cement barriers and spikes on the roads leading to them.
Criticising the restrictions, Tikait said, “When the king is scared, he secures the fortress.”
He suggested that he would lay down on the nails embedded on the roads there so that others can cross them by stepping on him.
He said the Centre must talk with the farmer unions spearheading the agitation.
The ''mahapanchayat'' was attended by Haryana BKU chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni and BKU leader from Punjab, Balbir Singh Rajewal. Over 50 “khap" leaders were also present.
Last week, a large number of farmers participated in a mahapanchayat in UP's Muzaffarnagar in support of the BKU-led protest at Ghazipur.
Jind is often considered part of Haryana's political heartland and the ''mahapanchayat'' was meant to muster support for the farmers' agitation. It was organised by Sarva Jatiya Kandela Khap headed by Tekram Kandela.
Five resolutions were passed at the “mahapanchayat”. These urged the government to repeal the new laws, give a legal guarantee on the MSP, implement the Swaminathan Commission report, waive farm loans and release farmers arrested after the events in Delhi on January 26.
Tikait said the campaign against the farm laws was going strong. “The way we are getting support from khap panchayats, we will win this fight.”
He urged everyone involved, particularly the youth, to keep protesting in a peaceful manner and assured victory will be theirs.
He underlined the role played by farmers and their unions from Punjab. “We need their help. Haryana and Uttar Pradesh will back them. We will maintain the prestige of the farmer's turban,” he said.
Seeking to project unity among the farmer unions, Tikait referred to BKU (Rajewal) chief Balbir Singh Rajewal as “our leader”.
Tikait, whose show of emotion recently appeared to have helped revive the farmers' agitation after the violence on Republic Day, said there are 40 unions spearheading the protest and decisions will be taken collectively.
Rajewal accused the Modi government of behaving with farmers in a manner that “no other government in the world” would.
“Centre brought laws which will destroy farmers and this country. We began this agitation several months back in Punjab, it has now spread to entire country,” he told the “mahapanchayat”.
On the new police barricades, Rajewal said the government has turned protest sites into a kind of “open jails”.
Khap leader Kandela said the prime minister and the Union home minister should talk directly with the protesting farmers.