Tikait brothers say farmers will respect PM's dignity, but also protect their self-respect

·3-min read

New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) Protesting farmers will honour the dignity of prime minister, but are also committed to protecting their self-respect, the Tikait brothers who are leading the agitation asserted Sunday, a day after Narendra Modi said his government was just a 'phone call away' for talks with the unions.

Both Naresh and Rakesh Tikait said they were open to talks with the government to find a 'middle path', which the former suggested could be the BJP government not implementing the three laws during its tenure. Rakesh, the younger of the two and the national spokesperson for the BKU, said a 'respectful solution' should be found to the issue, but asserted they will not agree to anything under pressure. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had Saturday said his government's offer on agri laws made to protesting farmers 'still stands' and the Centre was a just a 'phone call away' for talks, days after violence broke out in parts of the national capital on Republic Day.

Rakesh said they will honour and respect the dignity of prime minister, and added the farmers don't want the government or Parliament to 'bow down to them'.

However, he added they will also ensure the self-respect of farmers is protected.

During their January 26 parade, many of the protesters, driving tractors, had stormed the Red Fort, with some of them hoisting religious flags on its domes and on the flagstaff at the ramparts.

In his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio broadcast Sunday, Prime Minister Modi also referred to the Red Fort incident, saying the country was much pained at seeing the dishonour to the Tricolour on Republic Day.

Both the brothers condemned Republic Day violence and said it was unacceptable, even though they alleged it was the result of a conspiracy. They said the Tricolour was above everything and they will never let anyone disrespect it.

The Delhi Police has registered nearly 40 cases and made over 80 arrests in connection with the violence and vandalism.

Rakesh demanded the government release their men to prepare an environment conducive for talks.

Naresh, the elder of the two brothers and Bharatiya Kisan Union national president, (BKU) told PTI. 'Talks are necessary. A solution should be found. These farmers have been protesting for over two months now. Their demands should be met.' 'The middle path could be that the BJP government assures farmers it won't implement the three laws during its tenure. We will also try convincing the farmers. What else can be better than this?' he suggested.

'We respect the prime minister's post...farmers should be respected too,' he said.

Naresh and Rakesh are sons of Mahendra Singh Tikait, once counted among the tallest farmer leaders of the country.

Meanwhile, asked if the protest will have a bearing on the politics of western Uttar Pradesh, Naresh said that elections are a chance for farmers to make their voices heard.

He added, 'They are free to vote anyone, we cannot ask them to vote for a particular party...if a party has hurt them, why would they bring it to power again?' Meanwhile, more tents came up at the UP gate protest site in Ghazipur on Sunday as farmers kept pouring in from neighbouring regions.

Many waited for hours to talk to Rakesh Tikait or to click a selfie with him.

The farmer leader remained busy meeting his supporters and talking to the media, halting only when his voice broke.

A Bharatiya Kisan Union member said Rakesh has not been able to sleep for more than three hours a day for the past three days.

'In between, he complained of blood pressure issues, but is doing fine now,' the BKU member said.

At the protest site, small groups of farmers took out marches, carrying the Tricolour and shouting slogans. PTI GVS TIR TIR TIR