The protesting farmers have announced a road map towards stepping up their agitation with a call for a country-wide hartal on December 8, unhopeful of a breakthrough at Saturday’s scheduled meeting with the government over the contentious farm laws.
The farmers have also lined up sit-ins at toll plazas from a yet-to-be decided date to prevent the collection of toll.
The steps were announced on Friday after a meeting of the various farmers’ collectives participating in the protest at the Singhu border between Delhi and Haryana on G.T. Karnal Road.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who spoke to groups of protesting farmers over the phone, is expected to launch a state-wide agitation on December 7 against the new farm laws and hold a mega rally in Calcutta on December 10.
The Bengal Congress will support Tuesday’s hartal. “The farmer friends have called for a nationwide strike on December 8. We will support the strike in Bengal and participate in it,” Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury said.
The All India Kisan Sabha has vowed to make the strike a success in Bengal. “We have cancelled the sit-in demonstration in front of the Gandhi statue in Calcutta on December 8. The call for the strike has been given by our national leadership; we will make it successful in Bengal,” said Amal Halder, a Kisan Sabha leader associated with the CPM.
The sit-ins at toll plazas will be a repeat of what Punjabs’ farmers have carried out in the state since October 1. They let vehicles through but would not allow toll collection on the national highways.
On Friday, the farmers again made it clear that there would be no going back on their demand for the repeal of the three new farm laws and the withdrawal of an electricity bill that proposes to reduce subsidies and privatise power distribution.
Yogendra Yadav of the Jai Kisan Andolan said the government, after trying to divide the farmers, was now seeking to wear them down with meetings. The longer the government is dragging the issue, the more traction the protests are getting, he added.
While Punjab has taken the lead, Haryana has joined in full force over the past week. Now, with the panchayat elections over in Rajasthan, farmers from there too will start moving towards Delhi, he said.
Although the Centre says it is willing to listen to the farmers with an open mind, Delhi police have sent a notice to former Lok Sabha MP and All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) general secretary Hannan Mollah for participating in a protest on Parliament Street on September 25 against the farm laws.
The AIKS called it an attempt to intimidate farmers and union leaders. Mollah has participated in the two rounds of talks held with the government this week.