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A Day After Farmer's Death, SKM Announces Wider Programmes; Nationwide Protest Set for Friday

SKM's decision came a day after all farm unions were invited to bolster their protest at the borders, following the death of a farmer at the Khanauri border on Wednesday.
A photo of the farmers' protest. Credit: Photo: Special Arrangement

Chandigarh: A day after the death of a farmer amid excessive police action, the Union government has suspended the social media accounts of protesting farmers, signalling its continuous efforts to suppress the latest edition of the farmers’ movement, currently stalled at the Punjab-Haryana borders.

However, unity among farmer organisations is far from evident on the ground.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella organisation of farmer unions across the country that played a key role in compelling the Modi government to repeal three farm laws during their year-long protest in 2020, decided not to join the protesting farmers at the Shambhu and Khanauri barriers during their general body meeting in Chandigarh on Thursday, February 22.

On the contrary, it announced its own parallel programmes, from holding a day-long ‘kisan mahapanchayat’ in Delhi next month on March 14 to organising a tractor march on highways later this month.

The current “Delhi Chalo” programme is spearheaded by the SKM splinter group, SKM (non-political), under Jagjit Singh Dallewal, and the Kisan Mazdoor Sangarsh Committee under Sarwan Singh Pandher.

Regarding why the SKM decided not to join the protesting farmers, Balbir Singh Rajewal, a member of the SKM, told the media during a press conference that these groups decided to march for Delhi without consulting the SKM. “If we join them now, it would give the impression that we are going there to disturb their programme,” said Rajewal.

On why SKM was not showing unity, Rajewal said, “The media should not put their words on our mouth. Our focus is on unity and the welfare of all farmers. Despite the separation of the Dallewal and Pandher groups from the SKM, we have still formed a six-member committee to establish coordination with them and advance our common demands,” he said.

Rajewal said that the decision on whether protesting farmers should march ahead or call off their protest in the wake of strong police action is for them to make, as they are managing the entire protest.

SKM’s decision came a day after Dallewal invited all farm unions to bolster their protest at the borders, following the death of a farmer at the Khanauri border on Wednesday.

Currently, the situation is calm at the borders since their Delhi march remains suspended till Friday evening.

Pandher told the media in Chandigarh on Thursday that they would announce their next course of action soon.

SKM announces nationwide protest in response to farmer’s death 

SKM, in response to the death of 22-year-old farmer Shubkaran Singh at the Khanouri border on Wednesday, announced a nationwide protest scheduled for February 23.

As part of the protest, SKM urged farmers to burn effigies of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, and Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij.

Joginder Singh Ughrahan, president of BKU (Ughrahan) and member of SKM, declared February 23 as a “black day” and demanded a judicial inquiry by a Supreme Court judge into the ‘murder’, along with Rs 1 crore compensation for the deceased’s family members.

Detailing further programmes, another SKM member Avik Saha said, “On February 26, all over the country, there will be ‘tractor pradarshan’ (demonstration) where we will ask the government to quit WTO.”

On March 14, an All India Kisan Mazdoor Mahapanchayat will be organised at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. “We expect more than a lakh people to join,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Assembly on Thursday expressed its condolences for the passing of Singh, who lost his life during the farmers’ protest.

Presenting the House’s condolence message, Speaker Ram Niwas Goel described Wednesday’s incident at the Khanauri border as “very painful.”

Amidst all the allegations and criticism against the Union government, Union minister Arjun Munda said in Jharkhand, “The Government of India is continuously working and dedicated towards the welfare of the farmers. Just yesterday, in the case of farmers, the fair and remunerative price of sugarcane was fixed at Rs 340 per quintal.”

‘The price of protest must not be death

Responding to the death of Singh during the ‘Dilli Chalo’ march, Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India, said: “The death of Shubhkaran Singh occurred amid a ruthless crackdown by the state authorities on the farmers’ protests in India. Authorities must carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the cause and circumstances of the death of the protester, and ensure the suspected perpetrators are brought to justice through fair trials without recourse to death penalty.

“With more protests planned for the coming days, authorities must do all in their power to ensure that people can peacefully voice their concerns, without fear of injury or death. The Government of India must respect, protect and facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in line with its international human rights obligations.”

“The price of protest must not be death.”

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