New Delhi: The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) on Thursday announced the suspension of its over a year-long agitation after they received a formal letter from the central government accepting their key pending demands including withdrawal of police cases against the protesters and on MSP.
Calling off the agitation, the SKM, an umbrella body of 40 farm unions, said farmers will celebrate December 11 as ‘Vijay Diwas’ and take out victory marches following which they will head home.
Asserting that this is not the end of the movement, Farmer leaders said they would meet on January 15 to see if the demands have been fulfilled by the government.
“This is not the end as the movement is just suspended. we have decided to meet again on January 15,” SKM core committee member Balbir Singh Rajewal said at a press conference.
Farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, started protesting at Delhi border points — Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur — on November 26 last year against the three contentious farm laws. The laws were repealed by Parliament on November 29, but farmers continued their protest over their pending demands.
In the letter to the protesting farmers, Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Aggrawal referred to the five main demands of farmers which were pending after the three contentious farm laws were repealed in Parliament last month.
Besides accepting the demand to withdraw police cases against farmers during the agitation, the government informed the SKM that a committee on its demand for a legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) that will include SKM members will be formed.
Another SKM member Gurnam Singh Chaduni said that “a review meeting will be convened on January 15 to see if the government has met all the demands. If it does not, we can take a call on resuming the protest”.
Soon after the SKM’s announcement about the suspension of the stir, the protest sites erupted into celebrations with farmers raising their union flags, greeting each other on the success of their agitation and playing patriotic songs from their tractors.
Protesters were also seen dismantling their tents, even as farmer leaders said they will leave for their respective destinations on Saturday. The SKM, which has been spearheading the agitation, also apologised to people who had to face inconvenience due to its protests.
Welcoming the farmer unions’ decision to suspend their protest, Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan said it will allow the BJP to set its agenda for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls around the works done by the party’s governments both at the Centre and the state.
Balyan, the BJP’s prominent Jat face from western Uttar Pradesh, said the party’s situation will further improve as the farmers are returning home “satisfied with the actions of the Narendra Modi government”.
“It is a matter of happiness not only for me but for all of us and that they (farmers) are going home satisfied with the actions of the government,” Balyan told reporters outside Parliament.
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Singh Badal, also welcomed the announcement of the suspension of the agitation.
Terming it a “victory of democracy”, she said, “When the government does not listen, people are forced to protest.”
Badal, who had resigned from the Modi cabinet after opposing the farm laws, said, “though the farmers have suspended agitation, their wounds will take time to heal.”
On Wednesday, the SKM had said that it has reached a consensus on a revised draft proposal of the Centre on its pending demands but had demanded a formal communication on government letterhead.
“Farmers will start vacating Delhi border points from December 11, and this may take some time,” farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said and added that the SKM will remain intact.
Feeling nostalgic, 65-year-old Amrik Singh from Patiala said he felt at home in his tent at the Singhu border and would leave it with a heavy heart.
The morcha also announced that a special prayer will be offered at the Golden Temple Harminder Sahib on December 13.
SKM empowered committee member Shiv Kumar Kakka on behalf of the morcha apologised to residents and businessmen who faced problems due to the agitation.
“It is a historic win…,” Kakka added.
Farmer leader and SKM member Yogendra Yadav said the agriculture secretary sent the letter regarding consideration of pending demands on Thursday morning.
“On fake cases against farmers, the government said Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana will withdraw cases immediately. The government said a Power Bill will be presented in Parliament only after discussion with the SKM,” he told reporters.
Yadav said farmers wanted to go back on Friday but that is the day when the last rites of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and the others, who died in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, will be performed. So protesters will start going back to their homes from Saturday, he said.
“The movement has not ended, it has been suspended. The struggle for MSP is on. Culprits of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence are still not behind bars. We will on January 15 decide how to take the struggle forward,” Yadav said.
The letter sent to the SKM by the Centre said the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana have agreed to withdraw cases against farmers with immediate effect.
Cases registered against farmers in Delhi and other states will also be withdrawn, it added.
The letter also clarified that the status quo will be maintained on procurement of crops on MSP in the country.
In the letter, the Centre has informed farmers that Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have given in-principal approval to provide compensation to kin of family members of farmers who died during the agitation.
It also clarified that the Electricity Amendment Bill will not be tabled in Parliament until government discusses provisions impacting farmers with SKM.
Stubble burning has already been decriminalised, the central government letter said.
SKM core committee member Darshan Pal said that farmer groups should now form a pressure group and not a political party to change the situation in Punjab.
He said that the SKM had achieved a 60 per cent win on November 19, when an announcement to repeal the three farm laws was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and 35 per cent has been achieved on Thursday, suggesting that the remaining five per cent would be when all demands will be fulfilled.
“The January 15 meeting will also discuss how to present the SKM as a national level morcha. Farmer leaders who want to join politics should leave the SKM. The SKM will remain apolitical,” Pal said.
Border protest sites were brimming with energy and farmers were eager to go back home. However, there was no major celebration because of the demise of Chief of Defence Staff General Rawat in the crash.
The farmer leaders also paid tribtes to those killed in the unfortunate incident.
On November 29, Parliament passed a bill to repeal the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and the Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.