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Indian farmers’ leader Rakesh Tikait to address kisan mahapanchayat Feb 20

Rakesh Tikait, leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), one of the several farmer organizations currently holding protests at Delhi borders, is going to make his first major attempt to take the agitation against three farm laws to Maharashtra.

Tikait will hold his first kisan mahapanchayat away from North India, at Yavatmal, on February 20.

The move was confirmed by BKU media in-charge Dharmendra Malik.

“We have finalised the Yavatmal kisan mahapanchayat for February 20. Rakesh Tikait will address the mahapanchayat, which will be held under the banner of Sanyukta Kisan Morcha,” Malik told Indian local media.

He added, “The farmers’ agitation has been going on in several states in the north, including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Several mahapanchayats have been held in these states. The idea behind Yavatmal mahapanchayat is to take the agitation to Maharashtra and mobilise the farmers there.”

Tikait had stirred farmers’ sentiments after he broke down when the Uttar Pradesh police had stormed the Gazipur protest site with a view to evict the protesters, following the tumultuous January 26 events during the tractor rally in New Delhi.

Tikait’s emotional expression to continue the sit-in despite police action had instilled fresh life into the farmers’ agitation, which many thought would peter out due to the January 26 events.

One of the major criticisms of the farmers’ stir, however, has been that it was restricted to a few North Indian states and did not have a larger impact on farmers across other parts of the country.

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The Yavatmal mahapanchayat’s success or failure, therefore, would be an indicator of how much solidarity farmers elsewhere have for their North Indian counterparts.

Shankar Darekar, state unit chief of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdur Mahasangh, another organisation participating in the Delhi protests, said, “The programme will be held at Azad Maidan in Yavatmal, where we are expecting a crowd of about 40,000-50,000 farmers from all over the state. So far, 30 farmer organisations in the state have agreed to join the mahapanchayat and we are talking to 8-10 more organisations.”

Asked if appeal was also being made to political parties to lend their support, Darekar said, “So far we haven’t decided to make any appeal to political parties. If they want to support, they are welcome. We only hope that they keep their political identity out of the protest.”

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