The eleventh round of talks between the centre and farmers protesting the agriculture laws ended Friday evening as the previous ten did – in a stalemate – with farmer leaders refusing once more to accept the centre’s proposal to put the controversial laws on hold for 18 months. They continued to insist that the laws be scrapped entirely and that legal guarantees be provided for MSP.
Furthermore, unlike earlier talks, no date was set for the next meeting, with the centre telling farmers “all possible options have been given” and asking them, instead, to hold internal discussions on the proposal to temporarily suspend the laws before returning to the table.
More ominously, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar suggested the centre would be ready for another round of talks only if the farmers wanted to discuss the suspension of the laws.
“We told the government we will not agree to anything other than repeal of the laws. The minister asked us to discuss separately, rethink the matter and convey (our) decision,” Darshan Pal, a farmer leader with the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, told news agency PTI.
“We conveyed our position clearly… we want repeal of the laws and not suspension. The ministers asked us to reconsider our decision,” Rakesh Tikait, a Bharatiya Kisan Union leader, added.
Some farmer leaders also questioned the centre’s credibility, saying it was difficult to believe the laws would, in fact, be put on hold for a year-and-a-half.
Irate farmer reps, who said they were made to wait for over three hours after the two sides broke for lunch, accused the centre of disrespect. One leader told news agency PTI today’s meeting was “an insult to farmers” and that the centre had only sat down for face-to-face talks for 30 minutes.
The farmers also said that they will now intensify their agitation, including holding the tractor rally in Delhi on January 26 – Republic Day.
The proposal to suspend the laws for a certain time had been put forward in the previous round fo talks, and was widely seen as both a sign of the centre relenting under pressure from the farmers.
However, after a late evening meeting at Singhu on the Delhi-Haryana border (where thousands of farmers have been camped since November), the offer was turned down.
The farmers reiterated that the Republic Day tractor rally – which the centre told the Supreme Court would cause embarrassment for the nation” – would continue as planned. They also turned down a request from the Delhi Police to cancel the rally.
Earlier this month, the farm laws were put on hold for at least two months by the Supreme Court, which named a special committee discusses the issue with all sides in that time.
The farmers, however, did not accept the committee, saying all four of its members are pro-government. One of the members stepped down a day after being named.
With input from PTI