Farmers' protest | Don’t make farmers a prestige issue, says Ghulam Nabi Azad

He cites instances when even British government had to bow to farmers’ movement

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad appealed to the government not to make the ‘confrontation’ with farmers a prestige issue and called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself to make an announcement repealing the disputed farm laws. He condemned the violence at the Red Fort on January 26 during the farmers’ tractor rally.

After a washout on Tuesday, the Rajya Sabha functioned smoothly on Wednesday barring a six-minute-long adjournment forced by sloganeering Aam Aadmi Party members after the Treasury benches and the Opposition came to an understanding on suspending question hour and zero hour to discuss the Motion of thanks to the President’s address.

Speaking in Mr. Modi’s presence, Mr. Azad, who is the Leader of the Opposition, said that no government in the past had benefited from fighting farmers, and cited instances when even the British government had to bow to farmers’ movement.

He also raised the issue of registration of cases under stringent provisions against leading journalists and his party colleague Shashi Tharoor. “Shashi Tharoor was Minister of State for External Affairs. He has represented the country outside. How can he be an anti-national… then we all are anti-nationals,” he said. He demanded the withdrawal of sedition cases against them.

AAP members protest

Earlier in the day, despite the consensus arrived at between the government and the Opposition, three AAP members continued with their protest, walking into the well of the House raising slogans. The House was adjourned at 9:34 a.m. to be reconvened in six minutes. Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, quoting Rule 255 for withdrawal of members for gross disorderly conduct, had them removed from the House. Sanjay Singh, Sushil Kumar Gupta and Narain Dass Gupta were marshalled out. They kept shouting slogans outside in the lobbies.

Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M) said, “I am sorry I cannot support this thanksgiving motion. Our economy has fallen, people of our nation are suffering. We have a government that has nothing to offer to wipe the tears of common people. Braving the cold, lakhs of farmers gathered in different borders of Delhi and are continuing their peaceful protest. More than 500 farmer unions opposed the laws. The laws were passed without taking into confidence the Opposition parties.”

R.C.P. Singh (Janata Dal-United) claimed that Bihar had abolished the APMC system and corn production had increased 135% since 2005. “Now farmers can sell their product anywhere, the vegetables grown in Bihar are now being sold in West Bengal,” he claimed.

Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party said, “If you can agree to stay the laws for 1.5 years, then what is your objection to repeal the laws, bring new legislation, send them to [a] standing committee and then pass them. They have built concrete walls, nails were placed on road, the kind of security that even Parliament does not have, has been done at Ghazipur border.” He demanded that people who died in these protests should get ₹20 lakh compensation and their children given government jobs.

K. Keshava Rao (TRS), said. “The real burning issue in the country is the farmers’ issue right now. If only we can be a little more democratic, accommodative, and liberal in approach… things would not have come to this pass…they have passed the laws, but today we must find a way out. Government has responded that they will talk. Now they should address why MSP assurance should not go in the book of law.”

DMK’s Tiruchi Siva objected to how the farm Bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha in the last session.

All processes followed: Naidu

Mr. Venkaiah Naidu interjected and claimed that all processes were followed and all parties were allotted time to debate the laws. “As Chair, I have gone through records. Thirty-five speakers of different political parties exhausted their time. Two parties did not speak, and I cannot force them. The man who sought division was not in his seat, so it was not followed. Everything was done legally,” he said.

Mr. Siva responded that the House was not in order when the Bills were passed.

Prasanna Acharya (BJD) said, “No Indian can appreciate what happened on January 26. Putting the whole blame squarely on few farmer leaders isn’t appropriate. A proper enquiry under a Supreme Court judge should be constituted to find out who was behind this, and how thousands of people were allowed in Red Fort. What was the role of police, government or farmers leaders in this?”

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