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Bharat Bandh: Home Minister Amit Shah steps in for talk with farmer leaders

Will meet them Tuesday evening, a day before sixth round of talks between the Union government and farmers on three farm laws

Home Minister Amit Shah has called at least 13 farmer leaders for talks December 8, 2020 evening, as the country observed a bandh. Photo: Vikas Choudhary

Union home minister Amit Shah has called 13 farmer leaders for talks December 8, 2020 evening, the same day as farmer unions organised protests and road blockades across the country under the banner of ‘Bharat Bandh’ (country-wide shutdown).

The meeting comes a day before the scheduled sixth round of talks between the Union government and farmers against the three contentious farm laws passed by Parliament in September.

At least nine of the 13 leaders are from Punjab; the rest are from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

Yogendra Yadav, speaking at a press conference held by the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha at Singhu border, said the home minister has realised the strength of the agitation and therefore called the farmer leaders for a meeting.

Meanwhile, the countrywide strike in support of protesting farmers against the three farm laws saw a mixed response. Normal life was affected in Haryana, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu, West Bengal and Delhi-NCR.

Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Haryana chief of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), called the bandh a success. Ruldu Singh Mansa from Punjab Kisan Union said while the Union government tried to present the ongoing protests as a phenomenon restricted to Punjab and Haryana,  support from across the country has shown how wide the opposition against the Centre’s three contentious farm laws is.

Yadav claimed the bandh was observed at 10,000 places in 25 states across the country. “Fishermen, stone quarry workers, sand mine workers, federation of industrial workers, transport unions, rail workers, student unions, artists and authors supported the protest,” said Yadav.

 Punjab and Haryana experienced a total shutdown; in Karnataka, a full-day strike was held in 100 talukas and partial strike in others. Districts adjoining Cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu also witnessed a complete shutdown of economic activities.

“The police arrested several farmer activists from Bahraich, Barabanki, Lucknow, Prayagraj and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Telangana and Tripura also organised a complete bandh. Rallies were organised by Assam farmer unions,” said Yadav.

During the day, Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar met Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to discuss the ongoing stalemate.

The day saw sloganeering at Delhi’s border points as well. Heavy security was deployed there and traffic movement adversely affected. Several markets in the city, however, remained open and functioned as usual.

While a section of auto and taxi unions in the national capital joined the protest by keeping their vehicles off the roads, many decided to stay away from it despite their support for the farmers’ demands.

Delhi auto-taxi union General Secretary Rajendra Soni said while they support the demands of the farmers, the bandh would have affected autorickshaw and taxi drivers who are already suffering because of the novel  coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In Bihar and Gujarat, vehicular traffic was affected as protestors blocked highways by placing burning tyres on roads.

In Telangana, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi, opposition parties including the Congress and various unions held protests across the state. In Bengaluru, a protest march in the city affected normal traffic in some areas.

In West Bengal, the movement of suburban trains was disrupted as left and Congress workers blocked tracks in several areas. The protestors allowed emergency vehicles such as ambulances to pass.

The farmer unions on December 7 had asked the opposition parties supporting the strike to leave their own flags and banners at home and stand solely in support of the farmers. Around 24 political parties had come out in support of the bandh, according to farmer unions.

Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleged that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was placed under ‘house arrest’ by the Delhi Police after he visited farmers at the Singhu border a day before. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged that the police prevented AAP MLAs to visit the CM at his residence.

The police, however, denied the allegations and called the security deployment outside Kejriwal’s residence as regular.   


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