Farmers' protests: Agitators deliberate on holding talks with Centre, stay put at Delhi's Singhu, Tikri borders

Thousands of farmers continued their protest against the Centre's farm laws on Sunday, after camping overnight at Delhi's Singhu and Tikri borders.

The protesting farmers, from states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, said that a crucial meeting will be held on Sunday among the farmer unions to deliberate on how to engage in talks with the Centre. Around 500 organisations are part of the protest at Delhi's borders.

"There is a crucial meeting today to decide future course of action. We will stay put till then and decide accordingly. In any situation, we will not call off the protest till our demands are met," Brij Singh, one of the farmers at Singhu border said to PTI.

"We will discuss on how to engage in talks with the Centre. We are ready for talks with the centre only if they invite us for the same," Ruldu Singh, state president of Punjab Kisan Union was quoted as saying by NDTV.

With many roads and entry points being blocked after three consecutive days of a sit-in protest, Union home minister Amit Shah on Saturday addressed the issue and asked the farmers to shift to the Burari ground. He added that the Centre was "ready to hold discussions" with them as soon as they move to the designated place.

A delegation of the farmers has been invited for a discussion on 3 December, he said, adding that now that some of their unions have demanded that talks be held immediately, the central government is ready to do so as soon as the protesters shift to the ground in Burari.

However, farmers decided to stay put at the Singhu and Tikri borders on Saturday evening, demanding to be allowed to protest at Jantar Mantar or to gather at the Ram Leela ground instead.

NDTV quoted a farm leader as saying, "We will not move from here (Singhu Border) and continue our fight. Burari protest ground is more like a jail. Thousands of farmers have come from Punjab and Haryana to join the protest. We will not return home."

"Protests happen at Ramlila ground, then why should we go to Nirankari Bhawan, a private facility? We will stay put here today," Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait was quoted as saying by ANI.

However, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who has extended support to the protesting farmers since before the 'Delhi Chalo' march began, urged the farmers to accept Shah's appeal to shift to the designated place of protest.

He also termed Shah's offer to hold discussions at the earliest, as the "best in the interest of the farming community" and the nation at large.

The farmers have come prepared for a long haul, their vehicles loaded with rations, utensils, quilts and blankets for the cold and equipped with even charging points for their phones.

After a restive Friday that saw police using teargas shells, water cannons and multi-layer barriers to block the protesters and some farmers pelting stones and breaking barricades in their determination to push through as part of their 'Delhi Chalo' march, Saturday was quiet.

But the tension persisted with restless crowds milling around the city's edges and beyond and settling down from another night out in the cold.

Though there was no clear roadmap, the farmers belonging to multiple groups, appeared clear in their resolve, some saying that they would not disperse till the laws were repealed and others that would ensure their voices are heard, PTI reported.

Amid the nationwide farmer protests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that agriculture reforms "have not only freed farmers from various shackles but have also bestowed on them new rights and opportunities".

Addressing his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio programme, Modi said the recent agriculture reforms have begun mitigating the troubles of farmers in a short span of time as he cited the example of a Maharashtra farmer who used the provisions of the new laws to get the money promised to him by a trader.

"Since ages, these demands of farmers which at one point of time or the other all political parties had promised to them, have now been fulfilled. After deep deliberations, Parliament recently passed farm reform laws," he said.

"These reforms have not only freed the farmers from various shackles, but have also given them new rights and opportunities. In such a short span of time, these rights have started reducing the problems of farmers," he said.

His remarks come at a time when thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, have dug in their heels at Delhi's border points and hundreds have gathered at the city's Burari ground, united in their determination to hold protests against the new farm laws.

With inputs from agencies

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