No formal talks with govt until harassment stops, detained farmers freed: Samyukt Kisan Morcha

"It appears the government is extremely fearful of the rising tide of support for the ongoing protest from different states," the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) said.

There can be no “formal” talks with the government until “harassment” by police and administration stops and detained farmers are released, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha said on Tuesday.

In a statement, it alleged that increased barricading, including digging trenches, fixing nails on roads, setting up barbed-wire fences, closing internal roads, stopping Internet services and “orchestrating protests through BJP-RSS workers” are part of “attacks” being organised by the government, its police and administration against the farmers.

The umbrella body of farmers’ unions protesting the Central farm laws termed the “frequent Internet shutdown” at protest sites and blocking of many Twitter accounts related to the farmers movement “direct attack on democracy”.

Twitter on Monday blocked several accounts and tweets after the government asked the microblogging platform to take action against 250 handles and posts for containing ‘false and provocative content’ related to the ongoing farmers’ agitation, according to sources.

“It appears the government is extremely fearful of the rising tide of support for the ongoing protest from different states,” the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) said.

Farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are protesting the Centre’s farm laws for more than two months at the borders of the national capital, choking highways to neighbouring states.

“The SKM decided in its meeting on Monday that there can be no formal talks with the government until police and administration’s harassment of different kinds against the farmers’ movement is immediately stopped,” the SKM said.

It also said no formal proposal for talks has been received by it.

“Though no formal proposal for talks came from the government, we clearly state that the talks will be held only after unconditional release of farmers who are in illegal police custody,” the statement said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an all party meeting on Saturday had said the government’s offer to suspend the farm laws for 18 months was still on the table and the Agriculture minister Narendra Tomar was just a phone call away to take the talks forward.

The Morcha had reacted to Modi’s statement by reiterating its demand for repeal of the three agri laws.

The government’s negotiations with protesting farm unions hit a roadblock on January 22 as the farmer leaders stuck to their demands for a complete repeal of the three farm laws they find pro-corporate and a legal guarantee for minimum support price, even as the Centre asked them to reconsider its proposal for putting the Acts on hold for 12-18 months.

Unlike the last 10 rounds of talks, the 11th round could not even reach a decision on the next date for the meeting as the government also hardened its position saying it is ready to meet again once the unions agree to discuss the suspension proposal.

On Republic Day, a tractor parade by farmers in the national capital turned violent and many protesters were arrested.

The SKM, in a statement, said the Delhi Police has released a list of 122 agitators who have been taken into custody.

It said, “The SKM strongly condemns the arrests and detention of many protestors in different police stations and the seizure of vehicles of farmers. Scores of people are reported to be missing and this is a matter of great concern to us.”

“We demand their immediate release. We also condemn the attacks and arrests on journalists who are continuously covering the movement,” it said.

A legal team has been set up by the SKM, with representatives of different organisations, which will systematically pursue the case of those missing, arrested and seized vehicles, the morcha said.

The protesting farmers have declared a nationwide ‘chakka jam’ on highways on February 6.

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