CHANDIGARH: Strongly condemning the use of brutal force by Haryana in a futile bid to stop the agitating farmers from going to Delhi, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh termed it an assault on their constitutional and democratic right to protest, and urged the Delhi government to earmark for them a place to sit peacefully to highlight their concerns on the Farm Laws.
Recalling that he had led MLAs from Punjab to sit on a symbolic dharna last month at an allotted place at Jantar Mantar, the Chief Minister said something similar can be done for the farmers so that they can exercise their democratic right to speak and share their views with the national media.
“Hasn’t the BJP sat at Ramlila Maidan on protest rallies in the past? Why should the farmers not be allowed to go to their own capital city and speak out against the Farm Laws if they want to,” asked the Chief Minister, urging the ML Khattar government in Haryana to allow the agitated farmers to pass through the national highway to take their voice to Delhi peacefully.
Pointing out that the farmers were not violating any law or indulging in violence, Captain Amarinder said the attempts to stop them were “not good for democracy.” Actions can lead to counter-reactions, especially from the thousands of youngsters who were among the agitating farmers, he warned, adding that he was surprised at Khattar’s remarks.
The ML Khattar government’s actions were against the Constitutional spirit and against the famers’ freedom of speech, and in bad taste, said the Chief Minister, adding that “either we have a Constitution in India or we don’t, and if we do have one then every person has the right and freedom to speech, thought and action.”
Questioning the rationale behind stopping the farmers, who in any case were breaking barricades to move forward, the Chief Minister said, “The tyrannical use of brute force against peacefully protesting farmers is totally undemocratic & unconstitutional. “The hands that feed the nation deserve to be held, not pushed aside,” he asserted, pointing out that his government had allowed the farmers to protest peacefully for the past two months, without any violence or law & order problems. “We took the farmer leaders into confidence, the Haryana government should have done the same,” he added.
Expressing surprise at Khattar’s remarks in response to his earlier statement on the use of force by Haryana Police, the Chief Minister said, “It is the farmers who need to be convinced on MSP, not me. Khattar should have tried to talked to the farmers before the start of their Dilli Chalo if he thought he could persuade them, said Captain Amarinder.
Rejecting his Haryana counterpart’s charge that he (Captain Amarinder) was inciting farmers to protest, he quipped as to why farmers from Haryana were also marching to Delhi in that case. He also denied that he had been unreachable to Khattar and said the Haryana chief minister had not made any attempt to get in touch with him. “Why would I not speak to him when I am speaking to the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister regularly on the farmers’ issue,” he asked, adding that even today he had spoken to Amit Shah twice on the situation at the Punjab-Haryana border. He said he had told Shah that the Kisan leaders were not violent and the minor skirmishes that had taken place were a reaction to the Haryana Police actions.
Hoping that the farmer leaders would go for the December 3 meeting convened by the Centre, Captain Amarinder stressed that confrontation was no solution and both sides had to sit across the table to resolve the issue. He urged the central government to provide a legal/constitutional assurance on MSP to the farmers. If the Centre does not want to amend the Farm Laws they should amend the Food Security Act and also incorporate the same into the APMC Act, he said.