Opposition parties, including many regional outfits, on Sunday came out in strong support of the ‘Bharat bandh’ on December 8 called by farmer unions which have been protesting on Delhi’s borders for 11 days demanding the repeal of the Centre’s new agri-marketing laws.
Prominent leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, DMK chief MK Stalin and PAGD chairman Farooq Abdullah, also issued a joint statement backing the proposed day-long strike and pressed the Centre to meet the legitimate demands of the protesters.
Claiming that their agitation has spread across the nation, farmer leaders, who have maintained that their protest is apolitical, welcomed the support and urged all to come forward to make Tuesday’s Bharat bandh a success.
After five rounds of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions failed to end the impasse, the two sides are again set to meet on December 9, a day after the countrywide strike.
“This agitation is not only of Punjab farmers but is of the entire nation. We are going to strengthen our agitation and it has already spread across the nation,” farmer leader Baldev Singh Yadav said at a press conference.
“Since the government was not able to deal with us properly, we gave a call for Bharat bandh,” he said and appealed to everyone to make sure that the bandh remains peaceful. “We won’t let anyone turn it violent… We request everyone to be part of the bandh,” he said.
During the bandh, shops and businesses will remain shut. Ambulances and other emergency services will be exempted, farmer leaders said.
The Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, TRS, DMK, SP and the AAP joined the Trinamool Congress, RJD and the Left parties in supporting the strike call.
NCP chief and former Union minister Sharad Pawar warned the Centre that if the deadlock continues, the agitation will not be limited to Delhi and people from across the country will stand by the protesting farmers. He is scheduled to meet President Ram Nath Kovind on December 9 over the farmers’ protest.
Expressing the “wholehearted” support of the Congress to the strike call, party spokesperson Pawan Khera said it will hold protests that day at all district and state headquarters in solidarity with the demands of the farmers.
TRS president and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said the party rank and file would actively participate in the bandh to ensure it was a success, according to an official statement.
The DMK-led opposition bloc in Tamil Nadu too extended support to the strike, saying the farmers’ demand for repealing legislation was “totally justified”. In a statement, DMK chief MK Stalin, TNCC chief KS Alagiri, MDMK founder Vaiko and Left leaders, among other DMK allies, said the ongoing protest by farmers was growing every day and drawing global attention.
Actor Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) also extended support to the protest by farmers.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that all AAP workers across the country will join the nationwide strike and appealed to all citizens to support the farmers.
The joint forum of trade unions that has supported the farmers’ stir includes Indian National Trade Union Congress, All India Trade Union Congress, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, All India United Trade Union Centre and Trade Union Co-ordination Centre.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are protesting at various border points of Delhi for 11 days against the new farm laws.