Farmers' leaders including Rakesh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union sit on a hunger strike at Ghazipur border
Farmers' leaders including Rakesh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union sit on a hunger strike at Ghazipur border

As the ongoing farmers' protest at Delhi borders entered the 19th day, the peasants union has intensified the agitation with one-day hunger strike at all protest sites on Monday.

Forty farmer leaders from different unions will sit on hunger strike today at all borders points between 8 am to 5 pm.

25 of them will sit at Singhu border, 10 at Tikri border and 5 at Ghazipur border, Harinder Singh Lakhowal, General Secy, BKU (Punjab), said.

The farmers here told that they have a habit of fasting this way. Some farmers also asserted that when they go to sell crops, they have to stay hungry for one or two days.

A protester from Lakhimpur Kheri at the Ghazipur (Delhi-UP border) said, "When we take our sugarcane trolleys to mills, it happens that we skip meals for 24 hours. We are prepared for fast."

Alleging that the Central government is working in favour of the corporate sector, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson Rakesh Tikait on Sunday reiterated that farmers will not end the agitation till the three recently passed agriculture sector laws are repealed.

"The farmers are here with full preparation to stay. The completion of the construction of godowns before the laws were passed shows that the plan is something else. The farmers' name is on the files and inside the files, the documents belong to traders. This will not go on in India," Tikait said.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he too will observe a day-long fast on Monday and appealed to the central government "to shun ego and scrap the legislation".

Even as more farmers from Punjab and other states arrived near the Singhu and Tikri borders to join the sit-in which has been continuing for 18 days, Union Minister Kailash Choudhary said the government will soon decide a date for the next meeting and expressed confidence that the issues will be resolved this time.

More protesters are headed for Delhi with a large group blocking the key Delhi-Jaipur national highway when it was stopped by police on Haryana-Rajasthan border.

'Protest hijacked by Maoists, Leftists and anti-nationals'

While the farmers have warned of intensifying the stir in coming days amid a deadlock in talks, several Union Ministers have repeatedly alleged that the farmers' protests have been hijacked by Maoists, Leftists and anti-national elements, a charge denied by the union leaders spearheading the agitation.

A political slugfest has also erupted over the statements with the opposition, which has been supporting the stir, attacking the government, and the NCP said on Sunday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should clarify the claims of the Union ministers.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that stern action will be taken against "Tukde Tukde Gang", a term used by the BJP to target political rivals whom it accuses of being anti-national, who are trying to take advantage of farmers movement against the new farm laws.

Prasad, who is a Union Minister for Law and Justice, was speaking while launching Bihar BJPs state-wide "Kisan Chaupal Sammelan" (farmers conference) in support of the three agricultural Acts at Tekbigha village in Bakhtiarpur assembly constituency of Patna district.

Confident of finding solution: Tomar

The government has been mulling ways to reach out to the farmers more effectively and on Sunday Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Union Minister Som Parkash, accompanied by BJP leaders from Punjab, met Home Minister Amit Shah.

Asked when the government will hold the next round of talks, Union Minister Kailash Choudhary told PTI, "The meeting will be called soon. We are ready for discussion.

But the date has not been finalised." The government will find "some solution" to end the deadlock. "We have full confidence. In the next meeting, the issue will be resolved," he noted.

Five rounds of talks have failed to end the stalemate and the sixth was cancelled on December 9.

Tomar and Parkash, along with their ministerial colleague Piyush Goyal, have led the government's negotiations with the protesting farmers.

Tomar hit out at the opposition parties accusing them of running propaganda against the new farm laws and asserted that these laws "may cause difficulty for some in the short term" but will be beneficial to farmers in the long run.

"Manmohan Singh Ji (former Prime Minister) tried many times but could not do so. Today when it is implemented, propaganda is being spread," Tomar said.

The minister was addressing a delegation of over 100 farmers from Uttarakhand who came to extend their support to the laws.

Jaipur-Delhi national highway blocked

Due to the blockade, vehicular traffic on Jaipur-Delhi national highway had to be diverted through Bansur and other routes of Alwar, police said.

One-way traffic from Delhi to Jaipur was later plying but Jaipur-Delhi highway road is blocked due to the agitation, they said.

"Police is prepared for maintaining law and order and have made all arrangements in view of the farmers' agitation," Bhiwadi Superintendent of Police Ram Murti Joshi said.

Officials said normal traffic resumed between Noida and Delhi via Chilla border after farmers vacated the spot they had been occupying since December 1 for their sit-in demonstration.

The protest, however, continued at the border with some Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) members, including their chief Thakur Bhanu Pratap Singh, staying put at Chilla.

The protestors have gathered at the Noida border and want to proceed to Delhi to join the bigger stir called by farmers from Punjab and Haryana.

Hearing against sit-in in SC today

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on December 16 a plea seeking a direction to authorities to immediately remove the farmers who are protesting at several border points of Delhi against three new farm laws, saying commuters are facing hardships due to the road blockades and the gatherings might lead to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

According to the apex court website, a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian will hear the plea filed by law student Rishabh Sharma, who has also sought directions to authorities to open the roads at Delhi's borders, shift the protesters to the allotted place and provide guidelines on social distancing and use of masks at the protest site to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, are currently staying put at Delhi's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in protest against the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

They have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporations.

However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.

(With PTI inputs)

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