On 16 December, the Supreme Court proposed the formation of a committee comprising representatives of the central government and farmers organisations to resolve the ongoing deadlock over three recently enacted farm laws. In its interim order on 16 December, the court granted eight farmer leaders, the “permission to implead as respondents” to a petition seeking the removal of the protesting farmers from the Delhi border. Though not officially stated, it is likely that these eight names were proposed by the centre. It is telling that the list of eight names does not include Joginder Singh Ugrahan, the leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), and one of the key people leading the ongoing protests.
Ugrahan has been at the forefront of the agitation at the Tikri border between Delhi and Haryana, leading over one lakh farmers. The central government had earlier invited Ugrahan alone for talks on 28 November when protesting farmers had first gathered at the Tikri and Singhu borders. Ugrahan had refused to participate. “They should call everyone and not try to divide us,” he told me at the time. The centre later attempted to isolate Ugrahan. He was not part of a delegation invited by the union home minister Amit Shah for an informal meeting on the evening of 8 December. That meeting did not yield any conclusive agreement.
On 16 December, I spoke to Ugrahan. He described the SC order as a “judicial intervention that the central government wants, to kill democracy.” He added, “Whenever there is a mass movement governments look forward to support from courts. I think such an act is an attack on the people’s democratic rights.” Ugrahan continued, “The court is looking at the masses, including women and children, sitting in protest in cold wave conditions as their democratic right. The judiciary knows that the farmers in the country are facing severe economic crisis.”
The eight farmer leaders named by the court represent different factions of farmers’ unions, primarily the Bharatiya Kisan Union. The list includes the following leaders—Rakesh Tikait of the BKU (Tikait), Jagjeet Singh Dallewal of BKU (Sidhupur), Balbir Singh Rajewal of BKU (Rajewal), Harinder Singh Lakhowal of BKU (Lakhowal), Buta Singh Burjgill of BKU (Dakaunda), Manjit Singh Rai of BKU (Doaba), Kulwant Singh Sandhu of Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, and Prem Singh Bhangu of Kul Hind Kisan Federation.