A large number of farmers gathered at Shamli in Uttar Pradesh today for a farmers’ panchayat or meeting that was denied permission by the state’s BJP government on Thursday.
Thousands of farmers sat on the ground as songs prepared for the protests blared out of mics. One of these songs implored Prime Minister Narendra Modi to listen to the voice of farmers.
The district administration in Shamli had cited a Covid-spurred restriction on large gatherings until April and “chances of unruly behaviour” by farmers while denying permission for the panchayat, but the organisers, including the Bharatiya Kisan Union and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), said they would not be deterred.
“144 reasons why I will go to Shamli tomorrow!” – tweeted RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary, apparently referring to Section 144, which is used to ban large gatherings.
— Jayant Chaudhary (@jayantrld) February 4, 2021
Groups of farmers defiantly headed to Shamli this morning and many were seen driving to the grounds on their tractors. Chants of “Inquilab Zindabad” were heard.
Several Mahapanchayats have been held over the past few weeks across UP and Haryana in support of the farmers’ agitation over three controversial farm laws that they say will leave them at the mercy of corporates and take away their guaranteed earnings.
A series of meetings have been planned across Uttar Pradesh between February 5 and February 18 by the Bharatiya Kisan Union headed by Rakesh Tikait. Earlier this week, Mr Tikait addressed a crowd in Haryana.
Thousands have been camping on the outskirts of the national capital, seeking repeal of the three laws cleared by parliament in September.
This week, international figures like pop star Rihanna, climate activist Greta Thunberg, and US and UK lawmakers drew the world’s attention to the protests with their tweets.
Last week, thousands had gathered for the Mahapanchayat in Baghpat’s Baraut in Uttar Pradesh.
The government says the laws bring long overdue reforms in the agriculture sector and will allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country for competitive prices.