Protests against farm laws intensify, Opposition leaders detained in Delhi, UP, Gujarat; Congress MP moves SC against legislations

Protests against the controversial farm laws, which were recently passed by both the Houses of Parliament in the absence of an Opposition bench, raged across several states on Monday.

The Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK), among others, held agitations at various places, including Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

Farmer organisations, including the Bhartiya Kisan Union, have protested against the legislations which received President Ram Nath Kovind's nod on Sunday. Over the past few days, Punjab and Haryana have been roiled by protests.

In Karnataka, after political parties demonstrated during a statewide bandh called by the Karnataka Raitha Sangha, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, extending an olive branch to cultivators, said, "Sit with us and have a discussion. I am always ready to make changes for the benefit of farmers."

 Earlier on Monday, a mob set fire to a tractor near India Gate in Delhi to voice their opposition to the contentious farm laws. Five workers of the Punjab Youth Congress have been arrested over the incident, said police.

 


Leaders and workers of the Congress, which has announced a "mass movement" against the Centre, were also detained in several states as they attempted to march towards their respective Raj Bhawans.

Meanwhile, a Congress MP from Kerala filed the first petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of various provisions on one of the newly enacted farm laws.

Congress workers detained in several states

In Uttar Pradesh, state Congress committee president Ajay Kumar Lallu and other party workers were held while staging a protest in Lucknow, the party's media convenor Lalan Kumar told news agency PTI.

Led by Lallu, Congress workers from all over the state staged a protest at Lucknow's Parivartan Chowk, raising slogans against the "anti-farmer" laws.

When they were heading towards the Raj Bhawan, some workers and the UPCC chief were held, Kumar said, adding that there were reports of workers on their way to Lucknow being detained in other districts.

Delhi Congress leaders and workers, including its president Anil Kumar, were also detained by the police while holding a protest at Raj Ghat. The detained protesters were taken to a stadium in Hari Nagar, Delhi Congress leader Parvez Alam said.

The protesters were scheduled to take out a march to Raj Niwas, but party leaders and workers were detained before the March could begin, Kumar said.  "We wanted to submit a memorandum to the LG against the farm bills passed by Parliament but we were detained by the police. The Congress will not rest till the Modi government withdraws its anti-farmer bills," he said.

In Gujarat, state Congress president Amit Chavda was among 100 party workers detained by the police.  Chavda, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Paresh Dhanani, Congress MLAs Baldevji Thakor, CJ Chavda and other party workers had gathered at the Ambedkar statue near the Assembly complex and raised slogans against the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Gujarat.

They denounced the farm bills recently passed by Parliament as "anti-farmer" and alleged that the bills "will destroy APMCs". As the workers started marching towards the Raj Bhavan, around 100 of them were detained as no permission had been for the rally, said police.

"Since the Congress workers had not taken any permission for the rally, we detained them. We will take a decision about their release afterwards," Superintendent of Police Mayur Chavda said.

Congress workers demand repeal of laws

After the detained leaders were released, a Congress delegation met Governor Acharya Devvrat and submitted a memorandum demanding President Ram Nath Kovind withdraw his assent to three farm bills cleared by Parliament recently.

The Congress, in its memorandum, called these "black laws" which had been brought in by the Narendra Modi government to give select corporates the power to control the
country's agriculture sector.

In Maharashtra, a Congress delegation met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan and demanded withdrawal of the "black laws".

Former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who was part of the delegation, told reporters after the meeting that the laws were passed in Parliament hurriedly without listening to views of parties opposing them.

Chavan said the governor heard them out and "admitted that a way out should be found on the issue sitting together".

Congress, JD(S) workers detained in Karnataka

A dawn-to dusk bandh called by farmers in Karnataka against the amendments to the APMC and land reforms acts by the state government was backed by various pro-Kannada organisations and the Opposition Congress and JD(S).

Several labour organisations who are protesting against amendments to some labour laws during the brief Assembly session of the state legislature have also backed the bandh.

Pro-Kannada organisation 'Karnataka Rakshna Vedike' activists barged inside Bengaluru's Kempegowda International Airport to mark their protest, while some were detained by police near Kranthiveera Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station in Bengaluru, the Indian Express reported.

As per the Indian Express, traffic was disrupted in the state capital and few shops and other commercial establishments remained open. However, public transport in the rest of the state continued to operate smoothly.

Protesters were detained in Bengaluru as well as in Madikeri of Kodagu district, where Congress, Janata Dal (Secular) and SDPI workers were detained.

As protesters took out rallies in public squares, raised slogans in many places across the state and also set ablaze tyres in some places, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa extended an olive branch to farmers.  Seeking to allay fears of farmers, the chief minister said: "sit with us and have a discussion. I am always ready to make changes for the benefit of farmers."

He said the two bills— Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Bill and the Karnataka Land Reforms (Second Amendment) Bill — were aimed at benefiting the farmers and not the way projected by certain people. The bill cleared the state Assembly on Saturday.

Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly Siddaramaiah claimed the amendments were unnecessary. "Both the amendments will have a deadly effect on the farmers," he alleged during the agitation staged by his party in Bengaluru.

Protests held in Tamil Nadu, Telangana

Congress workers in Telangana too staged a demonstration against the farm bills and urged the president to withdraw them. State Congress leaders and the new AICC in-charge for party affairs in Telangana Manickam Tagore sought to submit a memorandum to Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan at the Raj Bhavan.

However, the protesting workers were taken into custody and shifted to Goshamahal police station in the city when they began to move towards the Raj Bhavan, said police adding that they did not have an appointment with the Governor, They were released by police later.

In Tamil Nadu, DMK and its allies also hit the streets, with DMK chief MK Stalin saying his party was ready to challenge the Centre's decision in court.

Addressing a demonstration at a village in Kancheepuram district as part of the state-wide protest, Stalin alleged that the new laws would drive farmers away from their lands.

"Take back farm laws," "We will not rest until the farmers interests are protected," "farmers betrayed," and "farm laws lead to hoarding," were among the slogans raised during the demonstration.

The DMK chief also took a shot at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stating that Modi had often claimed that he was the son of a poor mother. "This son of a poor mother is now making a large number of Indians poor," he charged.

Attacking Chief Minister K Palaniswami, he said though the AIADMK leader took pride in calling himself a farmer, thelives of the royts have "taken a hit" only after he assumed power.

After consultations with allies, the next course of action like further protests against the farm laws would be decided, he said.

MDMK chief Vaiko, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president KS Alagiri, DMK leaders TR Baalu and Dayanidhi Maran were among those who took part in the protests held at various places, including Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli and Tirunelveli.

The Odisha unit of the Congress also staged a demonstration near the Raj Bhavan demanding the repeal of the farm bills passed in the Parliament recently. In Rajasthan, party's state president Govind Singh Dotasra and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot submitted a memorandum to Governor Kalraj Mishra. The memorandum addressed to the president, seeks revocation of the agriculture-related new laws.

In West Bengal, hundreds of Congress workers marched in Kolkata carrying haystacks on their shoulders and submitted a memorandum to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, urging him to "intervene and ensure" that the laws were immediately repealed.

Will go to SC, says Amarinder Singh

In Punjab, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who staged a sit-in at Khatkar Kalan village, slammed the BJP-led Central government for 'snatching the rights of states' and said his government would approach the apex court.

"Now you have taken away (right over) the farm sector. Which thing will you leave with states? Will you leave it or not? You have taken away everything (from states). How will we run our states?" he asked.

Stating that his government would take every possible step to protect the interest of the farming community, he said that  he would discuss the matter with two advocates who are to come to the state from Delhi.

"I have said we will take this matter forward. The president has passed these bills and now we will take this matter to the Supreme Court," Singh further said.

Kerala Congress MP approaches SC

Meanwhile, a Congress MP from Kerala TN Prathapan moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of various provisions of one of the new farm laws.

Pratahpan, who represents Thrissur Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala, has alleged that the Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, is violative of Article 14 (right to equality), 15 (prohibition of discrimination) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.

He said the law is "liable to be struck down as unconstitutional, illegal and void".

As per the government, the new law intends to provide a national framework for the farming agreements to protect and empower farmers as they engage with agri-business and food processing firms, wholesalers, exporters and large retailers for farm services and sale of produce at a remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner.

BJP slams Congress over tractor burning

Earlier in the day, five people claiming to be members of the Punjab Youth Congress were detained after they unloaded a tractor from a truck in the high-security area at Rajpath, a few hundred metres from the President House and the Parliament, in the National Capital and set it on fire around 7 am.

"On #BhagatSingh's birth anniversary Youth Congress set ablaze a tractor in protest against the govt's anti farmer bills," the Indian Youth Congress tweeted.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Eish Singhal said an Innova car used in the act has been taken into police custody. "A case under 3 Epidemic Act, 51(B) Disaster Management Act, 4 Damage to Public Property Act and other IPC sections has been registered at Tilak Marg police station and five persons have been arrested," the DCP said.

The BJP came down hard on the Congress over the incident, saying it has "shamed" the country with its "drama" aimed at publicity and at "misleading" farmers.

Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president Tejasvi Surya alleged that youth Congress workers were involved in burning the tractor.

"Our farmers worship tools they use for farming. No real farmer ever burns his tractor. If at all the Youth Congress wanted to show their support to farmers, they could have donated the tractor to a poor farmer instead of burning it. But how can they? Destroying is all they know," he said in a statement.

"In the guise of a protest against the government's reforms for farmers, it is sad that the youth Congress is destroying property," Surya,  Bengaluru South MP, said.

Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar accused the Congress of misleading farmers, stating that the party's manifesto had promised to do what the Modi government has done with its farm sector reform bills. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh had also spoken similarly on the issue, he claimed.

"Now, Congress is trying to mislead farmers by speaking in a different voice. But it will not succeed," he said, adding that mechanisms like the minimum support price (MSP) and APMC will continue.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill , 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 were passed by the Parliament in the recently concluded Monsoon Session.  The bills were notified after receiving the presidential assent on Sunday.

Farmers' organisations and Opposition parties have been protesting against the legislations across several states..

Various farmers organisations, under the umbrella of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) had called for a nationwide shutdown on 25 September. Protests were held outside government offices in Kerala while 'Rail Roko' agitations were carried out in Amritsar.

Farmers associated with Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee squatted on the Amritsar-Delhi railway track, continuing their rail blockade which had started on Wednesday.

The committee’s general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher had earlier demanded that all the sitting 13 MPs from Punjab resign from their seats with immediate effect in support of the farmers’ demands, adding that BJP leaders would not be allowed to enter the villages of Punjab.

The protests will be observed till 29 September.

On Thursday, the Congress launched its “mass movement” against the government over “anti-farmer, anti-poor and black laws”, announcing nearly two months of protests.

On 2 October, the Congress will observe ‘Kisan-Mazdoor Bachao Divas (Save Farmers and Farm Labourers Day)’. On 10 October, state-level conferences will be held and from 2 to 31 October, the party will collect signatures from two crore farmers from across the country. On 14 November, the birth anniversary of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a memorandum, along with signatures of the farmers, will be submitted to the president.

Opposition parties including the Congress and SAD have strongly opposed the move, claiming that it will pave the way for big businessmen to enter the agriculture sector and harm the interests of the farmers. The SAD quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to protests against the passage of the bills.

The Centre has maintained that the legislations would be beneficial to the farmers as they would have the freedom to choose buyers for their produce and get remunerative prices.

With inputs from agencies



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