As thousands of farmers from Punjab marched to Delhi to protest the Centre’s farm laws on Thursday, the state’s chief minister Amarinder Singh and his Haryana counterpart ML Khattar waged a war of words over the issue throughout the day. The latest jab was by Singh, who questioned Khattar over his charges as farmers are on the “Delhi Chalo” protest march against the new farm laws.
The Centre has said the three laws will do away with middlemen, enabling farmers to sell their produce in the commercial markets but protesters fear that this could lead to the government not buying produce at guaranteed prices, thereby disrupting their timely payments. They are protesting against the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Service Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
“Shocked at your response ML Khattar Ji. It is the farmers who have to be convinced on MSP, not me. You should have tried to talk to them before their Dilli Chalo. And if you think I am inciting farmers then why are Haryana farmers also marching to Delhi?” Amarinder Singh asked, according to news agency ANI.
Earlier in the day, Singh had hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Haryana government for stopping farmers on their way to Delhi, prompting Khattar to tell him to stop “inciting innocent farmers”. Singh questioned the need to stop them from proceeding, according to an official release by his office, and urged the Khattar government to allow the farmers to pass through the national highway.
The Punjab chief minister also said that the constitutional right of farmers to protest was being suppressed. Singh also condemned the use of “brute” force by Haryana police, which had used water cannons and tear gas in a bid to stop the farmers from Punjab from marching through the state and had not allowed farmers from Haryana to move out of their villages in many places.
On his part, Khattar asked Singh to desist from misleading farmers, pointing out to him that he has already pledged to quit politics if the minimum support price mechanism is ever dismantled. Khattar also accused the Punjab CM of “only tweeting and running away from talks” with him for the last three days on the issue. “@Capt Amarinder Ji, I’ve said it earlier and I’m saying it again, I’ll leave politics if there’ll be any trouble on the MSP — therefore, please stop inciting innocent farmers,” Khattar tweeted.
“I’ve been trying to reach out to you for the last 3 days but, sadly, you have decided to stay unreachable — is this how serious you are for farmers’ issues? You’re only tweeting and running away from talks, why?” Khattar said in another tweet.
The protesting farmers had also blocked the movement of trains in Punjab for the last two months, before yielding to public and government pressure and lifting the blockade.