New Delhi: A combative PM Modi on Monday hit out at those leading the farmers' agitation for the past 76 days as a new 'Jamaat' (breed) of "Andolan-Jeevi -- professional protesters -- saying these are the parasites who feast on every agitation.
He refused to go on the defensive by making it clear that the three farm laws enacted in September will not be withdrawn, come what may. He told the farmers they were welcome to further dialogue, but not on the repeal of the laws.
The farmer leaders responded by asking the prime minister to give the date and time for the talks. Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) leader Shiv Kumar 'Kaka' said: "We have never opposed talks. Whenever called, we talked with the minister; but the logjam is because the government is refusing to repeal the laws and give statutory guarantee of MSP (minimum support price.)
SKM, an umbrella organisation of 40- odd farmer unions from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, said the BJP and their ancestors never mounted any "andolan" (agitation) against the Britishers and therefore they are afraid of people's protest. The leaders sought to further remind PM Modi that it were the "Aandolan jeevi" who had liberated India from the yolk of colonial rule.
In a reply in Hindi to three days of debate in the Rajya Sabha on a motion of thanks to the President, the prime minister also coined an acronym -- "FDI" -- not the foreign direct investment that his government keeps chasing but instead the "foreign destructive ideology" that is undermining his government’s nationalist agenda.
The politically loaded acronym FDI was intended to lampoon the Opposition, certain protesters and foreign individuals who had tweeted in support of the ongoing farmers' agitation. As he did so, he cautioned the nation against the venomous influences emanating from abroad.
Modi spoke about a new tribe of protesters, which can be spotted in every agitation. "They are parasites who feast on every agitation. When they are not in the front, they operate from behind the curtains. They cannot survive without agitations," he said.
"We are well aware of terms like "buddhi-jeevi" (intellectuals) and "shram- jeevi" (working class), but I am seeing for some time this nascent community of "Andolan-jeevi." This community can be spotted whenever there is a protest, be it an agitation by lawyers, students or labourers. They can sometimes be seen at the forefront and sometimes in the rear," the Prime Minister told the Rajya Sabha.
"They cannot live without protests. We need to identify such people and protect the nation from them. They are 'parjeevee', parasites or pests," he said.
This was Modi's response to the sharp criticism from the Opposition during the debate over the global celebrities voicing their support to the agitating farmers – the likes of pop star Rihanna, 18-year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and author Meena Harris, niece of US vice-president Kamala Harris.
The Congress reacted sharply, slamming Modi for insulting the farmers who feed the nation. Senior Congress leader and Maharashtra PWD Minister Ashok Chavan blasted Modi for insulting the farmers.
While replying to the motion of thanks, the Prime Minister also accused the Congress of taking "U-turn" on the agricultural reforms, pointing out that the laws brought by his government were originally conceived by the Congress but it remained indecisive in taking hard decisions.