Lakhimpur Kheri incident shameful, facts hint at it being planned: Birender Singh

BJP leader says now is the right time for Centre, farmers to resume talks

Calling the Lakhimpur Kheri incident “shameful”, BJP leader and former Union minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said “it should not be taken lightly” as it was “not spontaneous, and there are facts which hint at it being a planned act”.

“I have been stating since the beginning (of the farmers’ protest) that any untoward incident may take place if any agitation continues for long. I see the Lakhimpur incident in two ways — one the politicians are in election mode there (in Uttar Pradesh) and second, there is competition between each-other to take benefit of it. This incident should not be taken lightly because it is not spontaneous. There are facts in it (which hints that) the act was done in a planned manner,” Singh said.

The senior BJP leader said he was apprehensive that the “incident may” act as a catalyst and “may provoke the agitation to such an extent which may create more problems”. “The political parties, farmers and the administration have to restrain themselves,” he added.

The former Union minister said “earlier too the farmers’ agitation had seen some violent incidents”. “But the leadership of the farmers’ agitation kept it on priority that they may go to any extent (to get the laws repealed) but will continue the agitation peacefully and in a systematic way. That’s why this agitation has sustained for so long. If (more) such incidents take place, all things will stand shattered. And we can’t says what would be its results,” he added.

Singh also said that the farmer agitation is “expanding”, and now is the appropriate time to resolve their demands through dialogue.

“For the first time even those people have come to the support of farmers who are not engaged in agriculture and don’t have any association with agricultural land. But they have felt that their (farmers) point of view should be heard,” Singh told The Indian Express.

Calling the response to the September 27 ‘Bharat Bandh’ the “biggest success of farmers”, the BJP leader said, “Our party should admit that”.

Singh’s son Brijendra Singh is BJP MP from Hisar, but Birender has been supporting the protesting farmers since the beginning and even sat on dharna.

Explaining the growing support for the farmer agitation launched against the Centre’s three farm laws, he said: “The farmers had appealed for Bharat Bandh 2-3 times earlier too, but that was not so effective except in 1-2 states. But this (September 27) was pan-India, which had an impact in 22 states, be it partial or fully successful. Those who used to think it is confined to a class or area…now it can’t be defined in that way. Its dimensions have changed now. The success of this Bharat Bandh has affected the political circles too as it had support of more than 12 political parties apart from social bodies. Not only this, several religious bodies were also supporting it. First time there are reports of participation of traders and those people who were not associated with it till now.”

He further said: “We should start a dialogue before the agitation’s further expansion and to avoid an atmosphere of violence. Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar too had said that they are ready to hold talks with the farmers. If you are ready, give them time for a meeting and send an invitation to them. The farmers say they will respond if they are told about it. There is a big change in the circumstances which were 10 months back. There is realisation from both sides — the government and the farmers — that the matter will be resolved only through dialogue.”

Talking about the political implications of the farmer agitation, Birender Singh said “the elections of UP and Punjab will indicate what turn the politics of India will take in future”.

Going into the reasons behind the unrest among the farming community, the veteran BJP leader said: “Today, the farmer is not only talking about three farm laws, he also thinks why his economy is going down. He is concerned about his participation in the economy of this country. Those who are involved in agriculture are 62 per cent of the country’s population. They feel — ‘if we don’t get our share in the growing economy then what is the use of growing more food, more produce and having more exports of agricultural products’? These things have now started coming to his (farmer’s) knowledge. So now any system can’t keep a big segment of society out of its economy.”

The former Union minister further said: “Economic reforms are not only for industrialist growth, it is not only to convert certain crorepatis into arabpatis… keeping in view the size (population) of India, we have to change the direction of economic reforms, otherwise unrest will persist in the country.”

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