Farmers protesting the Centre’s three new agricultural laws on Monday, announced their decision to continue their sit-in protests at Delhi borders despite a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.
Most farmer leaders have claimed that there are no reports of Covid-19 cases at protest sites and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait has reiterated his refusal to move out.
And while the Centre and Haryana government have urged farmers to vacate the protest sites in view of the recent surge in Coronavirus infections, many farm union leaders on Monday, urged protesting farmers to return to the demonstration sites.
“Now that the reaping season is over, we are asking farmers to return. Repeated requests from ministers asking us to move out are just a prelude to an effort at uprooting us,” said Yogendra Yadav, president of Jai Kisan Andolan.
Union leaders also alleged that the Central government was planning on conducting an exercise called “operation clean” to evict the farmers from the protest sites while citing rise in Covid-19 cases.
Issuing a warning to the Centre, general secretary of All-India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, Dr. Ashish Mittal, said that such a move will be met with countrywide protests.
Various other farmer leaders also took to social media to appeal to the protesting farmers to not end their stir.
“For the last few days, news of government’s likely action at (Delhi) borders has gone viral. I request you not to panic but prepare to assemble at protest sites if such steps are initiated,” said Vikas Sisar, a farmer from Haryana.
“Though Haryana’s Home Minister has given a clarification, we should not underestimate the opponent,” he added.
Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij, who also hold the Health portfolio, had expressed concerns for farmers’ health in view of the deteriorating Covid-19 situation in the country.
Meanwhile, another farmer leader Manjit Singh Dhaner from Punjab, said, “Let me say this clearly, I challenge the government to try and uproot our struggle. Why are rallies and meetings being held in poll-bound states? Isn’t the fear of Coronavirus there too?”
Another farmer, Abhimanyu Kohar, “We have come to know from reports that the government may try to forcibly evict us. That may not augur well. Remember that evening of November 28, when you planned to evict us from Ghazipur? Despite the low visibility due to fog, lakhs of farmers had returned and joined the protests.”
According to Tikait, the struggle will continue till November-December and they do not intend to return home till the laws are repealed.
Farmer leaders also announced a week of “resistance and precaution”, during which the protesters will resist the Centre’s laws while adopting precautionary measures in view of rising Covid-19 cases.
“Large number of farmers will start arriving at the Tikri border from June 21,” Yadav said adding that on May 10, farmer leaders will address a virtual national conference.
“From April 24, which marks 150 days of our protests, our colleagues will come to the national capital from numerous villages as part of a Delhi Chalo march,” added Mittal.
The leaders also dismissed allegation stating that the protests might increase Covid-19 cases in the national capital.
“We started this agitation while the pandemic was on. But has there been any spread? Is there a hotspot here?” Mittal asked. He further urged the Centre to not “threaten” the farmers.
“We will spread awareness about health and hygiene protocols one needs to adopt in view of Covid-19. All our colleagues will be asked to wear masks,” said Yadav.
The farmer leaders also said that they will set up vaccination camps at all protest sites. Anyone above 45 years can walk in and get inoculated, they said, adding that ambulances will also be made available.
Thousands of farmers are protesting mainly at three sites – Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur – since late November. The protestors are mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.