As farmers’ protest against the three controversial farm laws complete three months, The Quint spoke to Samyukta Kisan Morcha leader Dr Darshan Pal on a host of issues, including the future plan of action of the movement, the role of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, events which unfolded on 26 January, and the electoral fallout of the farmers’ protest.
Is it ‘time up’ for the farmers’ protest yet?
After 11 rounds of inconclusive talks between the farmer unions and the central government, the dialogue between the two parties has come to a standstill, especially in the wake of incidents which unfolded during the 26 January tractor parade with many experts predicting that as fatigue kicks in, the protests will end soon.
However, Dr Darshan Pal told The Quint that the union leaders and the protesters were always prepared for a long battle, and those who think that these protests will end before the suspension of the laws are mistaken.
"“When we started the protests, we knew this could go on for long. Moreover, it is because of the harvesting season that the farmers are themselves busy with work. But at the same time, many other sections of society are joining the farmers in huge numbers.”" - Dr Darshan Pal, Farmer Leader
He further added that he is confident that the movement will be a success. “I say it from my own experience that protests, and movements have sustained themselves in such seasons. I am confident that we will win this with the help of other sections of society who will continue to join us at the peak of the harvesting season.”
When lakhs of people are turning up at the mahapanchayats, why is the crowd at Delhi borders thinning?
Talking about the mahapanchayats being organised in different states, including Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, Dr Pal told us that the movement is now gaining a pan-India base, and even though people distanced themselves from the protest after 26 January, many came back in overwhelming majority to extend their support.
"“On 26 January, events unfolded in such a manner that our movement suffered a major setback. We went on the backfoot and many people were upset with the movement. We also noticed that in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttarakhand, several people distanced themselves from our movement. But again, starting 28 January, we saw that people from the same states had started returning to the protest sites, countering the feeling which had developed after 26 January.”" - Dr Darshan Pal, Farmer Leader
He also emphasised on the point that the number of protesters currently camping at the borders of the national capital are enough to sustain the movement and that if the government tries to use force on these protesters, many more will turn up to extend support to them.
What is Rakesh Tikait’s role in the movement?
After 26 January, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait emerged as a prominent figure keeping the protest alive. However, Dr Pal is of the opinion that Tikait’s role is being exaggerated by the media.
"“The amount of work being done by (Rakesh) Tikait and the media attention being given to him is disproportionate in nature. Media is exaggerating his role in the protests. If he makes a statement, media makes a big deal out of it, despite the fact that most of his statements do not translate on ground.”" - Dr Darshan Pal, Farmer Leader
“Tikait’s style of working and his conduct is like that of individual unions. However, unions of Punjab are more democratic in nature. Decisions are taken after consulting all stakeholders and that is why the protests have reached this far,” he further said.
Three months on, what’s the message for the central government?
Dr Darshan Pal feels that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) must realise that it isn’t people in a factory or a village who are protesting, but farmers from across India are showing concern regarding the three laws.
"“These issues concern farmers across the country. All non-BJP affiliated farmer unions have come together to form the Samyukta Kisan Morcha. Farmers are the spine of a society; and if they continue to suffer, more and more people will join them in this fight, making it a pan-India movement which might have electoral consequences for the BJP.”" - Dr Darshan Pal, Farmer Leader
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