The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a conglomerate of farmers’ groups, today signalled its disapproval of farmer leader Rakesh Tikait’s meeting with political leaders, saying politicians are only allowed to “sit with the protesters”. Asked about the meeting this evening, the Morcha leader and a representative of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda), Buta Singh Burjgill, told reporters, “If politicians address from the stage, then it is violation of our orders. Politicians can come and sit with the protesters”.
The BKU’s reaction came amid questions about the farmers’ stance on sharing stage with political leaders. With the government repeatedly linking the movement with opposition politics, the farmers had made it a point not to allow political leaders near their rally.
That came undone after Thursday as BKU leader Rakesh Tikait broke down in full view of television cameras as the Uttar Pradesh government made an effort to push put farmers from the border with Delhi at Ghazipur.
Videos of his emotional assertion that he would “face bullets” but not budge from the site — termed a turnaround moment in the protest — drummed up a huge support for the protest, which many had condemned after the violence at the tractor rally on Republic Day.
Thousands of farmers from Uttar Pradesh started moving towards Ghazipur and on their heels, came the opposition leaders.
With just a year to go for the state elections in Uttar Pradesh, opposition leaders from across party lines — Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejaswi Yadav, Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Ajit Singh, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and other political leaders dialled Mr Tikait.
Others made it a point to visit him at the protest site.
Among the first to come was Jayant Chaudhary, grandson of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh. Uttar Pradesh Congress president Ajay Kumar Lallu, Delhi Congress leader Alka Lamba and Congress MP from Haryana, Deepender Singh Hooda were on the list as well.
Today, Mr Tikait said that the farmers will honour the dignity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said on Saturday that the government’s offer to suspend the contentions farm laws for 18 months and conducting negotiations, still stands.
But he made it clear that he was also committed to protecting the farmers’ self-respect.
“We will honour and respect the dignity of prime minister. Farmers don’t want that the government or Parliament bows down to them,” Mr Tikait said I an interview of the news agency Press Trust of India. “We will also ensure that the self-respect of farmers is protected. A middle way should be found. Talks should be held,” he added.