Indian farmers meet again at border to decide future action after momentous victory

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Indian farmers returned on Sunday to a border area in Delhi that was the seat of nearly a year of protests by the community to celebrate the repeal of farm laws and decide a future course of action.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his decision to repeal the farm bills this week, ahead of crucial state elections, leading to celebrations across the farming community.

The laws led tens of thousands of protesters to march on the capital Delhi last November, beginning a sit-in protest that caused huge physical disruption, blocked the government’s legislative agenda, and led to the deaths of hundreds of farmers.

In an address to the nation on Friday, Modi said: “We tried our best to explain to farmers. We were even ready to modify the laws and then suspend them too. The matter reached the Supreme Court as well.”

“We haven’t been able to explain to our farmers. This is not a time to blame anyone. I want to tell you that we have taken the farm laws back. We are repealing the farm laws,” the PM announced.

The government will finish the process of repealing the three laws in the upcoming parliament session, he said. India will begin its winter session of parliament on 29 November.

Farmers celebrate after India's Prime Minister announced to repeal three agricultural reform laws that sparked almost a year of huge protests by farmers across the country in Singhu (Getty Images)
Farmers celebrate after India's Prime Minister announced to repeal three agricultural reform laws that sparked almost a year of huge protests by farmers across the country in Singhu (Getty Images)

The controversial laws represented the biggest reforms to Indian agriculture in decades, disrupting the established network of government-owned local wholesale markets – where many farmers are required to sell their produce at a fixed price, sometimes subsidised by the public coffers – and replacing them with free markets.

It would also have brought in strict penalties for traders who stockpile essential commodities for future sales.

“Our call of tractor march to Parliament still stands. A final decision on the future course of the agitation and minimum support price (MSP) issue will be taken in a meeting of the SKM at Singhu Border on Sunday,” Samyukti Kisan Morcha (SKM) core committee member Darshan Pal told India Today on Saturday.

During this meeting, farmers are going to finalise all the agenda points they will keep before the government, including talks about their demand for a statutory MSP guarantee, and the electricity amendment bill.

“The women are booking trains to come [to the border], while those who can come by road are willing to take the one or two-day journey. As soon as I got to know about the decision, I set out from my village immediately,” Jagdev Singh, a farmer from Dharamkot in Moga, Punjab told the Hindustan Times.

Another farmer named Kabul Singh told the outlet: “I came to provide support to all my brothers and friends at the protest site. For those who have stayed here for nearly a year, this is a mini victory of sorts, but the real battle is not yet won and we will wait patiently for the Parliament session to take place now.”

“We will continue our protest till the laws are repealed in Parliament. But this time, we going on a happy note: we won,” Gurmail Kaur, president of the women’s wing of the farm union in Duggan village, told the Indian Express.

Bharatiya Janata Party’s MP Varun Gandhi has also reportedly reached the border.

The politician is likely to speak for the farmers and ask the government for a guaranteed MSP and withdrawal of cases against the protesters.

Mr Gandhi isn’t the only politician who agrees with these demands. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati tweeted: “There should be a new law to ensure the minimum support price for the produce of farmers, and barring cases of serious nature, all cases registered against farmers, who are the country’s pride, should be withdrawn.”

“This should be ensured by the Centre, and it would then be appropriate.”

Many politicians from main opposition Congress and Left parties have also demanded the MSP matter to be resolved.

To know why Modi repealed contentious farm laws after a year, read Arpan Rai’s story here.

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