Lashing out at his Haryana counterpart for inflicting such brutality on Punjab’s farmers, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday demanded an unequivocal apology from ML Khattar, accusing him of spreading lies and sticking his nose into a matter in which his state had no role to play.
“Khattar is lying that he tried calling me earlier and I did not respond. But now, after what he has done to my farmers, I will not speak to him even if he calls me 10 times. Unless he apologizes and admits that he did wrong with Punjab’s farmers, I will not forgive him,” said Captain Amarinder.
After Haryana’s actions of teargassing and baton-charging Punjab’s farmers and hurling water cannons at them, causing many of them to be injured, there was no way he would talk to Khattar again “neighbor or no neighbor,” he asserted.
In any case, said Captain Amarinder, if he could talk to the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister so many times on the farmers’ issue, why would he have not taken calls from a neighboring chief minister if he had truly called earlier.
Questioning Khattar’s decision not to allow farmers to go peacefully to the national capital when the Centre was ready to talk to them and even the Delhi government had no problem letting them in, Captain Amarinder demanded to know “who’s Khattar to come in between? What business does he have interfering in this whole affair?”
An angry Captain Amarinder also slammed Khattar for making baseless allegations that he (Punjab CM) was instigating the farmers and provoking them to agitate. “I am a nationalist to the core, I run a border state and will never do anything to create law and order problem of any kind,” he asserted, adding that for 60 days the farmers were blocking Punjab’s railway tracks, causing more than Rs 43000 crore in losses to the state, without any problem.
“I will not take this nonsense from Khattar. Don’t I have better things to do than to incite farmers?” he said, adding that “sometimes they say it’s Khalistanis who’re managing the protests and sometimes they accuse me of doing it…let them make up their minds.”
The Chief Minister categorically declared that no political party was involved in the farm protests, which were a spontaneous reaction of the farmers who were fighting for their future.
Lambasting Khattar’s charges of the farmers creating law and order problem, the Chief Minister said the Punjabis were law-abiding citizens and it was Haryana which was damaging public property and blocking the highways by forcibly stopping the farmers.
Terming as ludicrous Khattar’s claim that Haryana farmers were not part of the `Dilli Chalo’ agitation, the Punjab Chief Minister said Punjab’s intelligence showed that as many as 40000-50000 farmers from the neighboring state had joined the march to the national capital, which even the Centre’s intelligence reports would have borne out. “He (Khattar) doesn’t know what’s happening in his own state and he’s telling me what to do in my state!” quipped Captain Amarinder.
The farmers have the right to protest and speak their mind, they have the right to go to their own national capital to express their angst and feelings, said the Chief Minister, adding that he knows what the farmers are feeling, which is why he has not stopped them from leaving the state, nor did he prevent them from sitting on the train tracks. Pointing out that the farmers had announced their decision to go to Delhi several days ago, even before lifting the rail blockade, he asked “how did Amarinder come in?”
“The agitating farmers, who include a large number of youngsters, are speaking from their heart, they are listening to the voices of their hearts. It’s a question of their future, their lives, they are angry over the Farm Bills which seeks to destroy a well-tried and successful 100-year-old system of Mandis and Arhtiyas,” remarked the Chief Minister, adding that he will not accept all the baseless charges of him being behind the farmers’ protest lying down.
These farmers only want to raise their voice, they want to speak out, how can anyone stop them, asked Captain Amarinder, pointing out.
Declaring that nobody was stopping corporate houses from coming into the agricultural marketing system, the Chief Minister pointed out that they are even now procuring and running businesses in Punjab. They can do this while continuing with the existing system, both can run in parallel, he added.
The Chief Minister said he also wanted the issue to be settled and the confrontation to end, and will do what he can to help resolve the problem. He was prepared to back any attempts by the Centre to end this imbroglio, he said, adding that the Government of India has to talk to the farmers and find a solution. “If the GoI asks Punjab to be part of the efforts to resolve the issue, we will definitely go,” he said, adding that “my aim is peace and prosperity for Punjab.” The Centre should amend the Food Security Act to guarantee MSP to the farmers, Captain Amarinder suggested.
Captain Amarinder lamented that the Governor was sitting over the state’s amendment Bills instead of forwarding them to the President.