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Centre to Repeal Farm Laws: A Look at the Farmer Leaders Who Didn't Quit

The farmer leaders included a doctor, an ex-army man, and a former policeman.

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India
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It took 358 days of protests before the central government decided to withdraw the three contentious farm laws on Friday, 19 November. Several farmer leaders and farmer groups came together under the banner of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) and lead the protests that began on 26 November last year. While a few groups left the protests, several others continued their protests and held their ground.

Here's a look at some of the key leaders who have been at the forefront of the agitation.

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Rakesh Tikait

Rakesh Tikait, the 52-year-old farmer leader and national spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), has lead the protests and become the face of it.

Tikait is the son of the influential farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait who founded the Uttar Pradesh branch of BKU. From placing flowers next to the iron nail placed at the Ghazipur protest site to sweeping roads at other sites, Tikait continued to motivate the protesters and managed to capture the attention of the TV cameras.

Tikait broke down after several people were arrested because of the Republic Day clashes.

His outburst struck a chord not just with the protesters but also among farmers throughout the country and his hometown in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar, from where farmers started arriving at Ghazipur border on their motorcycles, bicycles, and tractors once again.

Shortly after PM Modi's announcement on the repealing of the farm laws, Tikait said that the farmers' ongoing agitation will continue.

"The farmers' agitation will go on. We will wait till the day when the three farm laws are actually scrapped by Parliament," Tikait told mediapersons here.

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Joginder Singh Ugrahan

The 75-year-old former army man, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, heads the Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan), an organisation he formed in 2002 to address the problems of the small-scale farmers in Punjab.

Ugrahan has also been a part of the protests since November 2020 and has been spearheading agitations in Punjab.

Ugrahan remained unfazed when television channels equated his organisation with naxals after Ekta Ugrahan members publicly asked for the release of activists including Varavara Rao, Umar Khalid and others.

"We have always been anti-establishment. But that is because we are pro-people. They may call us anything, but it does not take away the fact that we are working for the common person on the ground. By the way, the point for release of political prisoners was part of the joint demands submitted to the government," he told news agency IANS.

Ekta Ugrahan wasn't part of the 31 protesting organisations who came under one banner but the group, which is the largest among all the other unions, continued their agitation.

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Balbir Singh Rajewal

Rajewal is a well-known figure in Punjab, who heads his own faction of BKU after breaking away from the original unit.

At 77, Rajewal is the senior-most leader in SKM and has played a major role in the agitation. While he never held any political position himself, he is known to have guided the Akalis in making amends in the agricultural practice in Punjab.

His seniority came in handy while uniting the different farmer unions.

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Dr Darshan Pal

Another person uniting the farmers to continue their protests was 70-year-old MD in anaesthesia Dr Darshan Pal. Pal, who is the president of Krantikari Kisan Union Punjab, had been working on farm loan waivers for several years.

Although his organisation joined the protests later, he played an important role in coordinating efforts at the protest sites and ensuring everyone was okay.

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Gurnam Singh Charuni

The 66-year-old belongs to the Kurukshetra district of Haryana and leads the BKU (Charuni) faction in Haryana.

He holds various agitational programmes in Haryana on farmers issues and is maintaining coordination with farmer leaders of other states. He founded the BKU faction in 2004. Earlier it was affiliated to BKU/Tikait but now it is an independent organisation.

Singh is known to have started mobilising people to protest against the farm laws.

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Hannan Mollah

Mollah, the general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha has been one of the leading voices asking for the repeal of the farm laws.

Mollah is a veteran of eight direct Lok Sabha contests from Uluberia in West Bengal and was a Member of the Parliament between 1980 and 2009.

After the announcement on the repeal of the farm laws, Mollah said that his organisation's protests will continue as they will press for a law to guarantee minimum support price (MSP).

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Shiv Kumar Sharma (Kakaji)

Shiv Kumar Sharma, popularly known as Kakaji, has been another popular face in the agitation.

Sharma, who hails from Madhya Pradesh, joined the RSS-backed farmers' group – Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) – in 1998 but was later sacked in 2012 after he protested against the BJP government over loan waivers and farmer suicides. He was arrested in 2017 while protesting.

Sharma has been an integral member of the SKM and has represented the group on various occasions.

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Yudhvir Singh

Yudhvir Singh is national general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) and also an important member of the SKM.

Singh has been calling for a law to guarantee minimum support price (MSP) and has also reached out to political leaders in other states for supporting the stir.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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