Farmer Leader Pandher Says Stir Won’t End Until Demands Met; Protesters Hold Candlelight Vigil

Farmers participating in the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march will not end their agitation until their demands are met, farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher said on Saturday while indicating that their stir may continue even after the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha polls comes into force.

As the deadlock in talks between Union ministers and farmer leaders continued even after four rounds of dialogue, the protesters took out a candle march at Shambhu and Khanauri on Punjab’s border with Haryana in memory of the farmer who died during the ongoing agitation.

Shubhkaran (21), a native of Bathinda, was killed in the clash in Khanauri last Wednesday when some protesters tried to head towards the barricades erected by security personnel. Shubhkaran’s cremation has not taken place yet with farmer leaders being adamant that the Punjab government orders registration of an FIR against those responsible for his death.

In Delhi, authorities initiated the process of partially reopening the Singhu and Tikri border points with Haryana, almost two weeks after these were sealed because of the farmers’ march.

According to a police officer, the decision was taken after the protesting farmers announced a halt to the march till the end of this month. “The situation will remain under watch and, if required, the borders may be shut again,” he said.

Last Wednesday, the march, spearheaded by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM), was put on hold by farmer leaders for two days after a protester was killed and around 12 police personnel were injured in clashes at Khanauri. The incident took place when some protesting farmers were trying to head towards barricades.

Two days later, farmer leaders said the protesters will continue to camp at Khanauri and Shambhu points on Punjab’s border with Haryana till February 29 when the next course of action will be decided. The Haryana government has extended the suspension of mobile internet and bulk SMS services in seven districts of the state by a day till Saturday.

Speaking to reporters at the Shambhu border point on Saturday, KMM leader Pandher said they will announce their next course of action on February 29. “It is certain that this agitation will continue as long as (our) demands are not met. If they (Centre) accept our demands tomorrow, we will take a decision on the agitation,” he said.

About the imposition of the model code of conduct when the Election Commission announces the schedule for the Lok Sabha polls, Pandher said, “We do not have to distribute tickets for MPs. So we do not need to worry about the model code of conduct. We are not going to campaign at polling booths.”

“We are not worried (about the code of conduct). We are thinking that the agitation may continue even when the model code of conduct is in force,” the KMM leader added.

As authorities in Delhi started to remove multi-layer concrete barricades reinforced with nails and barbed wires and trucks filled with sand and boulders at Singhu and Tikri, a police officer said one lane of the service lane at the Singhu border and one lane at the Tikri border are being opened to allow vehicular movement.

The partial reopening of the two points on Delhi’s border with Haryana will bring relief to commuters travelling from Delhi to Haryana, he said. The two border points were sealed on February 13 as protesting farmers from Punjab began their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march to press their demands, including minimum support price (MSP) for crops and a farm loan waiver.

Meanwhile, the Congress’ Punjab unit held a protest outside the office of Sangrur senior superintendent of police, demanding the registration of an FIR against Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij over the police action against farmers.

Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring claimed the state police have not taken any action on a complaint filed against the Haryana home minister for the death of Shubhkaran Singh. Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa also sought registration of an FIR against Vij.

On Friday, farmer leaders slammed the Punjab Police for expressing its inability to file an FIR against security personnel from Haryana whom the protesters hold responsible for Shubhkaran Singh’s death. They also demanded that the state government accord him ‘martyr’ status.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore and a government job for Shubhkaran’s sister. Farmers have already announced to hold a seminar on February 25 on the topic of the WTO agreement.

Among other things, the protesting farmers are demanding the agriculture sector be taken out of the World Trade Organisation agreement. On February 26, farmers will burn effigies of the WTO and also of the Centre.

A meeting of the forums associated with the SKM (non-political) and KMM will be held on February 27 at the protest sites. A common meeting of SKM (non-political) and KMM forums will be held on February 28.

Thousands of farmers have been staying put at Khanauri and Shambhu, about 200 kilometres from Delhi, along with their tractor-trolleys and trucks after their march to the national capital to press the Centre for various demands, including a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for crops, was stopped by security forces.

The Punjab farmers are also demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, pension for farmers and farm labourers, no hike in electricity tariff, withdrawal of police cases and “justice” for the victims of the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, and compensation to the families of the farmers who died during a previous agitation in 2020-21.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)

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