Govt should not implicate innocent farmers else their agitation would grow: Azad

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New Delhi, Jan 30 (PTI) Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad Saturday asked the government to not implicate innocent farmers in the Red Fort incident otherwise their agitation would spread further, even as he condemned the January 26 violence and vandalism at the monument.

Stating this at an all-party meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Azad said the government should catch the real culprits behind the incident.

He said the government has already committed a 'mistake' by not sending to a standing or a select committee the three farm sector bills before they were passed into laws, triggering protest by farmers.

'I urge the government not to commit another mistake by implicating innocent farmer leaders. If they do so then the agitation will spread,' he told the meeting.

'I urge the government not to stand on prestige as farmers are our own and have contributed to the freedom struggle. The government should not make it a prestige issue with our ann-datas,' he said.

On January 26, thousands of protesting farmers had clashed with the police during a tractor parade called by their unions to highlight their demand for a repeal of the Centre's three farm laws.

Many of the protesters, driving tractors, had reached the Red Fort and entered the monument. Some protesters even hoisted religious flags on its domes and the flagstaff at the ramparts.

The Delhi Police has issued the notices to around 20 farmer leaders over the violence during the farmers' tractor parade, asking why legal action should not be taken against them.

Azad said the incident is shameful and one never expected it and 'we strongly condemn that and want the culprits should be punished”.

However, he added, 'The way this agitation is panning out, this agitation will swell and I hold the government responsible. Instead of catching the culprits, they are trying to implicate the farmer leaders.

'Lumpen elements are involved in the Red fort incident and no farmer leader is involved. That lumpen element should be caught and punished,' he said.

The senior opposition leader said no questions are raised whenever a real terrorist is killed, but whenever an innocent person is killed in the name of terrorism people take to the streets and raise their voice.

'If the real culprits behind the Red Fort incident are not caught and if innocent farmer leaders are implicated, then this agitation will spread and swell multiple times and you will have to handle it.' The Congress leader said he and other leaders had cautioned the government when it brought the bill in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, saying the stakeholders and Parliament have not been taken into confidence. Neither have the leaders of opposition parties nor farmer leaders taken into confidence, he said.

'Had these bills sent to these committees at that time, what is happening across the country, particularly in northern India and (in areas) surrounding Delhi, this would have not happened,' he said.

'Had the government heard the voice of the opposition, had the government referred the bills to the Standing Committee, the issue would have been heard threadbare and concerns of farmers would have been taken care of and the parties would have been taken on board,' Azad said.

He also demanded a discussion on the farmers issue as the first thing after the Parliament recess.

The senior Congress leader also demanded a discussion on the economic situation, unemployment and the rising prices of petroleum products, besides other issues.

He also said the situation in Jammu and Kashmir after the removal of provisions of Article 370 there is very critical.

'I urge the government to bring the bill to restore the statehood in Jammu and Kashmir. A government with elected representatives is required in a border state which is very sensitive,' he said. PTI SKC TIR TIR TIR