Seven leaders of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha walked out of a meeting with state government officials in Faridkot on Thursday, the ninth day of the chakka jam (road blockade) in Punjab, demanding an apology from chief minister Bhagwant Mann for his recent remark that “protesting has become ‘riwaj (customary)’ with farmers”.
The farm union leaders refused to meet state agriculture minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, who reached Faridkot in the afternoon for talks with the SKM leaders to end the stir.
The farmer leaders said Mann’s apology is a precondition for talks to end the indefinite fast by Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta Sidhupur) leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal at Faridkot’s Tehna village.
State general secretary of the BKU faction Kaka Singh Kotra said a meeting with SKM leaders was scheduled as Dallewal’s fast entered the sixth day.
“An SKM panel was invited by the administration for a discussion but the authorities were not serious to resolve the issue. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislator Gurdit Singh Sekhon was present but we want the CM to apologise for his statement as it has hurt farmer rights activists,” said Kotra.
The meeting was held at the guest house of Guru Gobind Singh Medical College in Faridkot.
Amritsar police commissioner Jaskaran Singh and Faridkot deputy commissioner Ruhee Dugg were among those present.
BKU (Sirsa) president Baldev Sirsa said the CM should buttress his claim that farmer unions hold protests for money and that their protests are unjustified. “The CM should name such unions with evidence or withdraw his statement. If any farmer union indulges in unfair practices, the CM should make it public and order action. But instead of implementing his promises made with the unions, Mann is making frivolous and uncalled for statements,” he said.
Punjab farmers have blocked roads for the last nine days in support of their demands, including more compensation for land acquired for national highway projects and crop damage due to inclement weather and pest attack, cancellation of cases against farmers for burning paddy residue and bonus for wheat yield loss caused by the virus attack.