Thousands of farmers marched through the streets of the capital, chanting slogans and flashing flags, to press their demands like debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce and were joined by social activists and leaders of non-BJP parties in a show of strength near Parliament.
The farmers, who had gathered from various states and camped at the Ramlila ground overnight, started their march around 10.30 am amid heavy policy deployment, only to be stopped at the Parliament Street police station.
The government came in for severe criticism for "not implementing a single major initiative for farmers in the past four and a half years".
National secretary of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) Asish Mittal said farmers from 24 states joined the protest. Banded under the AIKSCC, which claims to be an umbrella body of 207 organisations of farmers and agricultural workers, many protesters arrived in the city on Thursday.
The protest also became a show of opposition unity. From Rahul Gandhi to Arvind Kejriwal to Farooq Abdullah to Sharad Pawar, almost the entire opposition was present there. Farmers’ distress is likely to take center stage in 2019 elections and also in the upcoming winter session of parliament.
Yogendra Yadav, president, Swaraj Abhiyan; D Raja, Rajya Sabha, MP and national secretary, CPI; Sanjay Jha, spokesperson, Congress; Syed Zafar Islam, spokesperson, BJP, discuss the farmers' protest and its aftermath.
Yadav said, “For the first time farmers were able to dictate call tunes of politics. Farmers and politics cannot stay apart. Any major section of society should not stay apart from politics.”
Politicians have been using farmers and are playing with them, Yadav said.
What is required is that farmers should be able to dictate the terms, they should be able to call the tunes and I thought today for once something like that happened,” he added.
Syed Zafar Islam said the BJP is extremely committed to the welfare of farmers and farming community.
Political parties are taking this as an opportunity and they are behind the entire agitation and they are calling it as Kisan movement, Islam said, adding that these political parties have no other agenda and that is why they are doing this kind of exercise.
“I am very astonished by the comment made by the BJP spokesperson where he calls a farmer protest in Delhi as some kind of a political stunt," said Sanjay Jha.
This is the same kind of arrogance that was displayed by them in Madhya Pradesh when the farmers were protesting at Mandsaur and they said this is nothing but a political movement and they shot six farmers to death, he said.