Dhaliwal says sorry for Mann’s riwaaz remark, agrees to fulfil demands; farmers call off strike

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Sidhupur) chief Jagjit Singh Dallewal, who had been on a fast unto death, broke his hunger strike Thursday after Punjab Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal expressed regret over Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s remarks on farmers’ agitation and announced that consensus had been reached on various demands of the agriculturists following marathon talks.

Dhaliwal offered juice to the fasting Dallewal, who also heads the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Apolitical) at the protest site in Faridkot as he broke his hunger strike. Later, Dallewal told reporters that the farmers’ protests, which had been going on in six regions of Punjab, would be lifted with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, Dhaliwal said, “We held a marathon meeting today. It is a matter of happiness that we have reached a consensus. Chief Minister Mann had agreed to most of the demands already, but notification for some of the demands was yet to be issued. We have issues some notifications today”.

Another meeting with the farmers’ delegation will be held in Chandigarh on December 16, he said.

While commenting on the demand for Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s apology over his remarks on the farmers’ protests, Dhaliwal said there was some miscommunication as the AAP government had always stood for their welfare.

“CM’s statement about dharnas has led to some confusion in the minds of the farmer leaders. I want to clarify that Bhagwant Mann is a farmer’s son and his intentions are always for the welfare of the farmers. However, if anyone has felt hurt due to any of the words spoken by CM, we are sorry for that. Farmers are our family. AAP is a party of farmers and labourers and we will always think of their welfare,” said Dhaliwal.

The farmers’ protest against the heavy fines on stubble burning and lower compensation for crop damage due to inclement weather and pest attack and land acquisition for national highway projects had entered its ninth day on Thursday. Dallewal had also demanded an apology from Mann for his recent “paid protests” remark against the farmers.

BKU (Sidhupur)’s Faridkot unit chief Bohar Singh said, “CM had said that funds are being collected for dharnas. We told the agricultural minister that they can get an inquiry conducted and if they proven wrong, then CM should apologize”.

Speaking on the issue of burning stubble, Dhaliwal said all cases registered against farmers would be taken back.

“Stubble issue is not to punish farmers but we have said we have to find a solution. Red entries in their records will also be taken back,” he said.

The minister added that the compensation for crop damage would be paid by December 31.

Dhaliwal also assured the farmers that he would look into their concerns over the Punjab Village Common Lands Act. The farmers were also assured that they would be paid compensation for animals that died or were affected by lumpy skin disease.

The BKU(Sidhupur) had been spearheading the protests in Amritsar, Mansa, Patiala, Faridkot and Bathinda.
The Faridkot district administration and senior police officers had earlier made several efforts to persuade Dallewal to end his hunger strike.

Earlier in the day, they called the farmers’ leaders for a meeting in which the Faridkot deputy commissioner, senior police officers from the district and the AAP’s MLA Gurdit Singh Sekhon were present. Vidhan Sabha speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan too had met the farmers.

In the meeting, the farmers’ leaders reiterated their demands, including an apology from Mann. Minister Dhaliwal later held meetings with the farmers in the evening.

Following the meeting, the farmers’ leaders reached the protest site and briefed Dallewal. Dhaliwal reached the site late in the night and announced that a consensus had been reached.

Dallewal, meanwhile, issued a warning to the state government that if it went back on any promise, then the farmers would not hesitate to resume their protest. He, however, assured that the government would be given reasonable time to fulfil its promises.

Earlier, Mann had slammed the farmers’ unions for frequently blocking roads as part of their protests, saying that the common people were facing inconvenience.

Blocking roads by holding sit-ins has become a “trend” during the past few days, he had said last week.