Taking an U-turn from Centre’s earlier stance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced that his government will withdraw the three controversial agriculture laws.  Addressing the nation on the occasion of Guru Parab festival, the PM said, “While apologizing to the nation, I want to say with a sincere and pure heart that maybe something was lacking in our efforts that we could not explain the truth to some of our farmer brothers.”  

The yearlong protests by tens of thousands of farmers would not have possible without the groundswell of support whipped up by two of the agitation’s leaders–Gurnam Singh Chaduni and Rakesh Tikait.

Here is what you need to know about the two leaders: 

RAKESH TIKAIT, national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union

Former Delhi Police constable, Tikait has played a key role in negotiations with the government. 

After the violent episode at the Red Fort on January 26 when farmers unions feared that the movement would fail, BKU leader Tikait continued the protests firmly in his home turf western Uttar Pradesh. The 52-year-old leader held series of “kisan mahapanchayats” across the region garnering support for the cause. 

On January 28, when the news came that Uttar Pradesh authorities would be vacating a makeshift camp at Delhi’s border, Tikait broke down before TV cameras, saying he would rather die than give in, striking a deep emotional chord and also pumping new energy into the protests.

Even after the announcement were made today by the prime minister, Tikait said the ongoing anti-farm laws protest will be withdrawn only after the three contentious legislations are repealed in Parliament and legal guarantee on minimum support price (MSP) for crops made.

“The protest will not be withdrawn immediately, we will wait for the day when the farm laws are repealed in Parliament. Along with MSP, the government should talk to farmers on other issues too,” Tikait tweeted in Hindi.

GURNAM SINGH CHADUNI, president, BKU, Haryana

Credited with mobilising farmers before the three farm laws were passed, 65-year-old Chaduni led many successful agitations earlier and has adopted unique ways to protest, including shirtless marches and throwing potatoes on state highways.

On September 10, 2020, Chaduni organised one of the first meetings regarding the farm laws in Haryana’s Pipli.  The next milestone came when the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a coalition of over 200 farmer unions, called for a march toward Delhi on November 26-27.

It was on Chaduni’s call that protesters tried to make their way to a BJP event in Karnal, attended among others by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The crackdown that followed left several farmers injured and put the Khattar government on the backfoot.

(With inputs from agencies)

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