Farmers’ movements in India have rejected the Supreme Court’s intervention on the protests that have been raging across the country against the farm laws. On Tuesday, January 12, the Supreme Court of India, ordered a stay in the implementation of the three farm laws, until “further orders”. The court also constituted a four-member committee to come up with a mechanism to resolve the impasse between the Narendra Modi-led central government and the protesting farmers.
Farmers’ organizations launched a major round of protests on November 26 against the laws which were rammed through parliament by the Modi government in September. The farmers fear these laws will drive down the prices they get for their produce and increase the role of corporates in agriculture. Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi demanding the repeal of the laws.
The Supreme Court made the decision while hearing a batch of petitions against the farm laws, on the violation of the rights of the protesters and some also pertaining to the farmers’ blockade at major entry points to Delhi. The order, passed by a bench chaired by the Chief Justice of India, comes after eight rounds of talks over the past three months between farmers’ organizations and the government yielded no resolution.
While the stay order on the three laws was received with mixed reactions, farmers’ groups are extremely wary of court-mediated negotiations. Organizers and leaders of the protest continue to assert that they will not back down until the three laws are repealed.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, the president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), one of the protesting groups, said, “The government wants to shift its pressure by forming a committee via Supreme Court. But we want let it happen. And therefore, we will not talk to any such committee. The laws have been brought by the government, not by the court. Therefore, we will continue talking with the government panel only till the legislation are repealed. The government cannot escape from its accountability.”
In a statement released on Monday by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a coalition of over 40 farmers’ groups, movement leaders have refused to participate in the newly-formed committee’s deliberations.
“While all organizations welcome the suggestions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to stay the implementation of the farm laws, they are collectively and individually not willing to participate in any proceedings before a committee that may be appointed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” read the statement.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella body of over 250 farmers’ and peasants’ unions participating in the SKM, released a statement shortly after the court passed its order, reiterating the movement’s stand. The statement pointed out that the apprehensions held by the movement was vindicated with the formation of the committee and the four people appointed for it.
“It is clear that the Court is being misguided by various forces even in its constitution of a committee,” the AIKSCC statement said. “These are people who are known for their support to the 3 Acts and have actively advocated for the same.”
The members include two economists, Ashok Gulati and P. K. Joshi, both of whom are known for their advocacy of free market economics, and the liberalization of India’s agricultural sector. The other two, Anil Ghanwat and Bhupinder Singh Mann, are leaders of farmers’ groups that have for long advocated for a technocratic and private capital-led development of the agricultural sector.
Surjit Singh Phool, a farmer leader participating in the protests, stated that all four members “have declared positions in support of the agricultural laws.” He also added that the “court itself has given a good reason to the protesting farmers to boycott this committee”
Meanwhile, the number of farmers camped at the border of Delhi have only grown over the past few weeks, with thousands more pouring in from across the country. Recently, groups of farmers have arrived from far away states like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
The women’s movement has also participated in large numbers from across the country, with a large delegation of women farmers from the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab being mobilized under the umbrella of All India Democratic Women’s Association and Centre of Indian Trade Unions.
At the same time, protesting farmers are also gearing up for intensifying the struggle across the country. Responding to the court’s order, Rakesh Tikait, leader of one of SKM constituent Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), stated that his group will continue with the planned protests in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.
The AIKSCC statement also added that protests “will continue as per the earlier announcement on January 13, 18, and 23. Farmers wish to interact with the government, not engage with Supreme Court, where farmers did not present ourselves. So no comment on it, no offense to it.”
Farmers’ groups are also planning a major show of strength on January 26, India’s Republic Day, with a Kisan Parade (Farmers’ Parade). Protesting farmers are expected to ride their tractors into the national capital, in a parallel Republic Day parade coinciding with the official parade to be held by the Indian government.