Farmer rebuttal to Modi on Constitution Day
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi was holding forth on constitutionalism on Thursday morning, the Congress tweeted a quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “What you do says what is most important to you. Action expresses priorities.”
The message was posted along with several photographs and videos showing the police of BJP-ruled Haryana using force and water cannons to stop farmers from reaching Delhi to protest against the new farm laws.
The Congress described the police action, on the anniversary of the day the Constitution had been adopted, as an attempt to crush the farmers’ rights. It described the farmers’ march to the national capital to convey their feelings to the government as perfectly legitimate.
While Rahul Gandhi lauded the farmers for standing up to the authorities’ high-handedness, party spokesperson Gourav Vallabh tore into the government.
“Are only the suited-booted friends of Modiji allowed to come to the national capital? Which part of the Constitution empowers the government to stop peaceful protesters from entering Delhi? Only aircraft will land in Delhi, tractors won’t enter?” Vallabh said.
“The Prime Minister said today (that) KYC is ‘know your Constitution’. The first line (in the Constitution) is ‘We the People’. Modiji has forgotten that the Constitution is about the people, who include the farmers.
“Why are they coming to Delhi? To request you to give a legal guarantee for an MSP (minimum support price). You talk about the Constitution and, on the ground, crush the farmers’ right to protest?”
The Congress supports the farmers’ agitation and has been protesting the crackdown on their leaders over the past two days in Haryana.
“Farmer leaders were picked up in midnight raids. Barricades, barbed wire, stones have been put up on roads to block the march,” party communications chief Randeep Surjewala said.
“Farmers are (being) lathi-charged. Are they terrorists? Has the Modi regime become more cruel than colonial rule?”
Former BJP ally Akali Dal, which had parted ways over the “draconian” new farm laws, too slammed the Haryana government.
“Today is Punjab’s 26/11. We are witnessing the end of the right to democratic protest. Akali Dal condemns the Haryana government and the Centre for choosing to repress the peaceful farmer movement,” Sukhbit Badal tweeted.
“Is it forbidden to go to Delhi? The protest is against the central government. Why is Haryana chief minister using force to stop farmers?”
Badal’s reference to 26/11 — the November 2008 terrorist siege of Mumbai — reflected the seriousness the Akalis attach to the situation.
The BJP has lauded the Prime Minister for agricultural reform and put up large hoardings across the country.
Vallabh criticised Union agriculture minister Narendra Tomar’s assurance that the issues would be discussed with farmers on December 3.
“What will be discussed on December 3 can be discussed today as well. Is there a muharat on December 3? You don’t have time to talk to the farmers who worked in the fields during corona to ensure agriculture becomes the only sector to (show) positive growth,” he said.
“But for agriculture, the minus 24 per cent (growth) would have been minus 40 per cent. What is Modi doing, what engagement is more important than the issue that has agitated 62 crore farmers?”
The use of force against the farmers triggered a Twitter war between the Congress chief minister of Punjab and his Haryana counterpart from the BJP.
Amarinder Singh, who didn’t try to stop the march in Punjab, tweeted: “For nearly two months farmers have been protesting peacefully in Punjab without any problem. Why is Haryana government provoking them by resorting to force? Don’t the farmers have the right to pass peacefully through a public highway?
“It’s a sad irony that on Constitution Day the constitutional right of farmers is being oppressed.... Let them pass (Manoharlal) Khattarji, don’t push them to the brink.... The hands that feed the nation deserve to be held, not pushed aside.”
Khattar responded: “Amrinderji, I have said it earlier and I am saying it again, I will leave politics if there will be any trouble on the MSP. Therefore, please stop inciting innocent farmers.
“I have been trying to reach out to you for the last three days but sadly you decided to stay unreachable. Is this how serious you are for farmer’s issues? You are only tweeting and running away from talks.... Please stop putting the lives of people in danger during the corona pandemic.”
Amarinder responded: “Shocked at your response Khattar ji. It’s the farmers who have to be convinced on MSP, not me. You should have tried to talk to them before their Delhi march. And if you think I am inciting farmers then why are Haryana farmers also marching to Delhi?
“As for endangering lives during Covid-19, have you forgotten that it was BJP-led central government that pushed through those farm laws amid the pandemic, uncaring about the impact they’d have on our farmers? Why didn’t you speak out then Khattar ji?”