Farmers’ organisations from Punjab and Haryana leading the ongoing protests against the recently enacted farm bills have rejected attempts by Yogendra Yadav and VM Singh to move the sit-ins from the national highways on Delhi’s periphery to the Burari grounds near the Karnal bypass. Yadav heads the socio-political organisation Swaraj Abhiyan. Singh is the president of the umbrella farmers group, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, or AIKSCC, as well as a former member of legislative assembly. Protesting farmers are in a sit-in at the Delhi-Haryana borders, at Kundli on the Ambala-Delhi national highway, and at Tikri on the Delhi-Hisar national highway. The protests have the support of over three hundred farmers’ organisations from states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.
The thirty-odd farmer organisations of Punjab that are primarily leading the thousands of protesting farmers on the Karnal-Delhi national highway had begun a marathon review meeting on the prevailing situation two days earlier, on 27 November. The organisations had called for a large “Delhi Chalo” rally on 26 and 27 November for an indefinite protest against three controversial farm laws enacted earlier this year. Police in Haryana and on the Delhi border barricaded various major roads to prevent the protesting farmers from reaching the capital. But tens of thousands of farmers stormed these barricades, even as the police attacked them with teargas shells and water cannons.
On 27 November, VM Singh arrived with the Delhi Police, to make an announcement asking the farmers to gather at the Burari grounds instead of the Ramlila Maidan, the scheduled destination. The protestors refused to do so—according to many among them, the grounds will not allow for an effective protest, making it easier for the Narendra Modi-led central government to ignore their demands. The police then lobbed several tear gas shells at the protestors, eventually leading to the current stalemate.
According to a farmer leader, who heads one of the farmers’ organisations and had attended the marathon review meeting, Yadav was present at the meeting on 27 November, but only for the first ten minutes. He invited trouble for himself by suggesting that the protestors abide by the centre’s suggestion to shift the protest venue, the farmer leader said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He said that the attending leaders grilled Yadav and “virtually shooed him away for his suggestion, which had irked us.” Since September, when the bills were passed, Yadav has been issuing public statements on the farm laws and speaking to the media as a pro-farmer voice.
Yadav tried his best to convince the farmer leadership that “reaching up to Burari maidan will be our victory because we wanted to enter Delhi,” the farmer leader said. He recounted that another attending leader told Yadav, “How many trolleys of farmers have you brought in? You didn’t bring in even five cadres and you are suggesting we act on the government’s directives.”