Farmers protesting the agriculture laws won’t back down and it’s within the government’s interest to relent, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said Tuesday, amid renewed support for those fighting to repeal the laws, particularly after emotional appeals from Bharatiya Kisan Union (Arajnaitik) chief Rakesh Tikait and a six-word tweet from international pop star Rihanna.
Mr Gandhi also criticised the govt over disturbing images of farmer protest sites along the Delhi border being became “fortresses”, complete with wire , concrete walls, row upon row of metal barricades and enormous groups of police and paramilitary forces standing guard.
As far as i do know the farmers… they’re going to not backtrack . they’re going to continue with their protests. within the end it’s the govt which will need to backtrack , and better they are doing that today. this example isn’t good in the least for the country,” Mr Gandhi told reporters this afternoon.
“Yes, India’s image has taken an enormous beating… not just within the way our farmers are being treated, but the way during which our citizens, our journalists are being treated. India’s soft power has been damaged by this government,” he said, although he didn’t specifically ask Rihanna’s tweet.
The government has dismissed the tweet by the award-winning singer-businesswoman, who has over 100 million followers on Twitter, as “sensationalist”.
“Where is that the confusion? there’s just one issue – repeal the farm laws,” Mr Gandhi added, as he urged the govt to deal with farmers’ concerns rather than threatening them.
Mr Gandhi has been particularly vocal on this subject over the past few days.
On Monday he hit out at the govt for ordering Twitter to pack up some 250 accounts tweeting, or retweeting, with the #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag.
Tension between the 2 sides has spiked since violence on Republic Day last week, during which one farmer died, over 200 police personnel were injured and quite 120 people arrested.
Since then the farmers have pointed to the increased fortification of protest sites – which Delhi Police said was a response to the tractor rally violence – the denial of basic services like beverage and suspension of internet access as “attacks”.
“It appears that the govt is extremely scared of the flood tide of support for the continued protest from different states of India,” a press release from the Samyukt Kisan Morcha said.
Cases have also been filed against journalists, activists and politicians, including the Congress’ Shashi Tharoor, for social media posts about the farmers’ protest.