Farmers On Track To End Protests As Talks Make Headway: Sources

New Delhi:

The government has given protesting farmers written assurance that their demands – which include guarantees for MSP – will be met, sources said Tuesday afternoon, in what is a hugely significant moment for an agitation that has rumbled on relentlessly for over 15 months.

Sources also said that in its letter to farmer unions, the government said it would form a committee on MSP and that all police cases, including those to do with stubble burning, will be dropped.

The farmers are discussing the proposal.

Should they accept this offer, the farmers will call off a protest that has made headlines across the country (and the world) for more than a year, triggering violent clashes with security forces, furious debates and ruckus in Parliament and the deaths, reportedly, of more than 700 farmers.

It is understood that while the farmers are largely amenable to the government’s offer, there is one point being discussed – the government wants the farmers to stand down before police cases against some of them are dropped.

Another round of talks to iron out this point is likely, sources said.

Among other points the farmers had raised was the sacking of junior Home Minister Ajay Mishra, whose son, Ashish, has been arrested in connection with the running over of four farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri in October.

The government had repeatedly dismissed any talk of Mr Mishra resigning, and it is understood that no such offer has been in today’s letter.

Last week farmers said Union Home Minister Amit Shah had spoken to them (via a phone call) to discuss outstanding issues; this was after their protests forced the centre to scrap the farm laws.

The farmers constituted a five-member panel to hold talks with the government – talks that were to include their demand to legalise MSP and withdraw police cases against the protesters.

The government was given a ‘deadline’, which expired today.

“… if a compromise is found, then there is a possibility of farmers going back from borders,” Yudhvir Singh, a union leader told NDTV.

Farmers across India have battled on since September last year, when the three hugely contentious farm laws were pushed through Parliament despite opposition protests.

The protests – which included violent clashes and the deaths, reportedly, of over 700 farmers – left the government battling a serious image problem ahead of crucial Assembly elections in 2022.

Last month Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered an “apology” and said the laws would be scrapped. On November 29 a bill to that effect was passed in Parliament.

But, while they rejoiced at the success of their protest, the farmers refused to stand down, citing concern at the government’s reluctance to discuss the MSP issue.

The farmers had made it clear that they would not stop the protest – which includes thousands camped out around Delhi borders – till issues, including MSP, were fully addressed.

They had been scheduled to march to Parliament last month on the opening day of the winter session of Parliament, but deferred that move, saying they would give the government more time.

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