On Thursday, 10 December, dozens of posters of activists currently in jail were put up by sections of the farmers’ protests at the Tikri border, to mark the Human Rights Day.
Images from the protest site showed farmers holding aloft posters of activists, including Umar Khalid and Bhima Koregaon activists, who have been jailed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Posters of activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, poet Varavara Rao, Pinjra Tod members Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, and JNU student Sharjeel Imam and former student Umar Khalid, among others, were held up by the farmers on Thursday, The Indian Express reported.
The Quint spoke with farmer unions to find out whether the release of the prisoners is something that unions would officially demand or if this was done in solidarity.
While it was the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) which had organised the protest for the jailed activists, other unions – including the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) – said the core committee had rejected the demand to include it as part of their demands charter.
A representative of the BKU told The Quint, while they agree that they have been put behind bars without charges and have also been wronged by the State, their demands are only for the three farm laws to be repealed.
“That day was Human Rights Day. That was at the Tikri border. This wasn’t a part of the official farmers’ protest. Our’s is solely a protest on farmers’ issues. Our official demands are only in farmers’ issues,” Dharmendar Malik, spokesperson of the BKU told The Quint.
“There are many issues across the country. In a big agitation like this there are many smaller protests. But our core committee has rejected this,” he said.
According to The Indian Express report, Joginder Singh Ugrahan (75), president, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), maintained that protesting for those who are incarcerated was not political.
“These are prisoners who fought for the underclasses and their rights. We are also fighting for your rights, which the government is trying to take away from us. It is not a political move at all,” he added.
The BKU said they saw this as a “spontaneous thing that happened”, adding, “we have officially no such agenda. Our agenda is only for farmers and we are working only on that for now. This is not a part of the official demand.”
However, the BKU spokesperson said that they recognise the State has not been able to prove any charges against those who have been jailed for months and years.
“Those who have been jailed are also people of this country and no charges against them have been proven as yet. Just by calling them 'tukde tukde gang' or calling them left extremists, no one has the authority to call them criminals,” he further said.
“If Communists are so bad then why isn’t their political registration revoked? They have also been wronged but this is not officially a part of our charter of demands.”
The Quint also spoke with the All India Kisan Sabha Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) on the issue. A spokesperson said that the protest was only about farmers, and there is no diversion on this issue.
“We have not issued any official statement regarding this, and there is no diversion from our core demands of repealing the three farm laws,” a spokesperson said.