Hundreds of thousands of farmers gathered in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, the biggest rally yet in a months-long series of demonstrations to press Narendra Modi's government to repeal three new agricultural laws, Reuters reported.
More than 500,000 farmers attended the rally in the city of Muzaffarnagar, local police was quoted as saying. The event was organized by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) in protest against government's controversial farm laws.
meetings will be held across the country. We have to stop the country from
getting sold. Farmers should be saved, the country should be saved; business,
employees and youth should be saved--this is the aim of the rally," Bharatiya
Kisan Union (BKU) national leader Rakesh Tikait said.
Rakesh Tikait led the charge against the BJP, drawing loud cheers. "People of UP will not tolerate (Home Minister) Amit Shah, (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and (UP Chief Minister) Yogi Adityanath. If we have governments like this, there will be riots. This land witnessed the slogan of "Allahu Akbar, Har Har Mahadev" in the past. They talk of dividing, we speak of uniting," he said.
"They did not even express grief over the
deaths of over 600 farm protesters over the last nine months. Our campaign will
cover the entire country, our mission is to save the country," he said.
Accusing the Centre of having "cheated the people", he alleged: "They are selling our farmlands, highways, power, LIC, banks, and corporate houses like Adani and Ambani are the buyers."
Not surprisingly, the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 Hindu-Muslim riots echoed in almost every speech as leaders appealed to farmers to condemn communal politics.
"This is the same Muzaffarnagar where rivers of blood were drawn between Hindus and Muslims. They played politics with burning houses. Someone who makes communities fight, cannot be the true son of the nation," Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said.
It may be recalled, the clashes between the Hindu and Muslim communities in Muzaffarnagar in August-September 2013, resulted in at least 62 deaths including 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus and injured 93 and left more than 50,000 Muslims displaced. [Wikipedia]
BKU media in-charge Dharmendra Malik said farmers belonging to 300 organizations spread across different States like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, among others, have gathered for the event. He said over 5,000 'langars' (food stalls), including some 100 mobile medical stalls, have been set up for the participants.
Another farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said: "Today, you have shown the Government that its roots can be shaken by gathering in such numbers. The Government needs to be shaken more. Uttar Pradesh has 80 million farmer votes. We will defeat the BJP. Get candidates from amongst you and steal the political mandate from them. There should be a Mission Punjab as well. Until the time we change policy makers, nothing will happen."
Balbir Singh Rajewal, another farmers' leader, said Sunday's rally was a warning for Prime Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, which next year will contest a state assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, often seen as a barometer of the popularity of the federal government.
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