Ghaziabad, Feb 2 (PTI) Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Tuesday met Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait and extended “full support” of his party and the Maharashtra government to the farmers' protest against the contentious farm laws.
The Rajya Sabha MP said he reached Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border along with other Shiv Sena MPs on instructions of Maharashtra Chief Minister and party supremo Uddhav Thackeray, even as the protest site virtually remained a heavily secured fortress for a second day.
The Shiv Sena has from day one opposed the new farm laws and supports all farmers' protests ongoing in the country, Raut said embracing Tikait as they spoke to the press inside a tarpaulin-covered shelter off the protest stage.
“Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has specially sent me here today to meet Tikait sahab and convey to him that we, Shiv Sena, and the Maharashtra government are in their full support with our full might. I have come here with all our party MPs,” Raut said.
He added that Thackeray may “personally” talk to Tikait in one or two days. When told that Opposition parties are demanding that the new laws be discussed in the Rajya Sabha, the Shiv Sena spokesperson said, “Maang karne se kuch nahi hoga, ye andolan sadak ka hai sadak par rahega (Demands wont fetch anything. This movement started from roads and will stay here)”.
He stressed that the farmers' movement is not political.
Tikait also said, “The farmers' protest is apolitical and no politician, including Raut, has been given the mic or space on the stage.” Raut, one of the handful people wearing a face mask, met Tikait and other protesters off the stage after reaching here around 1 pm.
“The way vandalism unfolded here after January 26 and an attempt made to suppress the movement and Tikait, we felt it is our responsibility to stand by the farmers and extend support of the whole of Maharashtra, Shiv Sena and Uddhav Thackeray sahab,” Raut told reporters.
Raut said Shiv Sena is not here to campaign for any elections but only to extend the party's support to the BKU, adding thousands of farmers from Maharashtra are already at Ghazipur to strengthen the protest while state leaders like NCP's Sharad Pawar have also supported it.
On heavy security measures at Ghazipur, he said in a jibe, “itna road agar China border pe band karte to Cheen ka jo ghus gaya hai na Cheeni sena, wo Ladakh mein nahi ghus jaati (Had roads on China border been blocked this way, Chinese soldiers would not have been able to get into Ladakh).” A major Hindutva ally of the BJP-led NDA till 2019, the Shiv Sena was one of the 19 opposition parties which boycotted the President's address ahead of the Budget Session on January 29 and extended support to the agitation.
Previously leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Aam Aadmi Party, Congress, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Samajwadi Party visited Ghazipur, which has become the camping ground for BKU-led protesters for over two months now.
Of late, thousands have converged in support of the ongoing stir against the contentious new farm laws.
Rakesh Tikait on January 31 had said the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) had not allowed political parties in the movement against new central farm laws but took political support only after the democracy was mocked at protest sites.
Meanwhile, concertina wires spread further around the UP Gate (Ghazipur border) on Tuesday, while multi-layered barricading of iron and concrete structures along with nails studded on roads made sure no protester movement towards Delhi.
The Internet also remained suspended at the protest site.
A BKU office-bearer at the Ghazipur border, which now resembles a highly-secured fortress, said despite the odds, supporters from far-off places are reaching there to express solidarity with farmers.
“Andolan to hota hi hai mushqil mein, aaraam se kaun sa andolan hota hai (A movement happens in adverse conditions only, there is never a movement in comfort),” BKU's Uttar Pradesh unit spokesperson Pawan Khatana told PTI.
He said so far supporters from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand have come to Ghazipur while small groups of people from states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bihar too have reached here.
“But what does this security arrangement by the government mean? Layers of barricading, iron nails on road, barbed wires all around us. Forget humans, nobody keeps even animals in this manner,” Khatana, also the BKU's Meerut zone chief, said.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at the Delhi borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed the apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the 'mercy' of big corporations.
However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture. PTI CORR/KIS AQS RDK RDK