Farmers during Kisan Mahapanchayat against the new farm laws, in Jind district of Haryana.

A huge crowd gathered today at Jind in Haryana for a farmers’ “mahapanchayat” or meeting to push for the repeal of three new laws at the heart of farmer protests outside Delhi since November. While several such gatherings have been seen in the past few days in Uttar Pradesh, today’s meeting took it to Haryana’s Jat heartland.

Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait addressed the gathering at Jind, considered the epicenter of Jat politics in Haryana. Mr Tikait and several others were on the stage when it suddenly collapsed under their weight, briefly interrupting the meeting.

Mr Tikait, a Jat leader from Uttar Pradesh, appealed to people not to panic after the accident. He warned the government that it would find it difficult to stay in power if the new laws are not repealed.

“We have so far talked about ‘bill wapsi‘ (repealing the farm laws). The government should listen carefully. What will you do if the youth call for ‘gaddi wapsi‘ (removal from power)?” he questioned.

It was Mr Tikait’s tearful appeal last week that led to a resurgence of the farmer agitation after a backlash over the Republic Day tractor rally violence, when protesters broke through barricades and clashed with the police.

After the January 26 violence, the police have barricaded the protest sites outside Delhi’s borders with cement barriers and spikes on the roads. “When the king is scared, he secures the fortress,” Mr Tikait said.

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The village Kandela, where the mahapanchayat was held today, was the first in the region to have sent men to Mr Tikait’s sit-in at the Delhi-UP Ghazipur border in response to the viral video of the farmer leader in tears.

Five resolutions were passed at the “mahapanchayat“. Apart from the demand that the government withdraw the farm laws, the resolutions called for a legal guarantee of minimum support price for crops, a farm loan waiver and the release of farmers arrested after the violence on Republic Day.

Several khap leaders – khaps or self-appointed village arbiters enjoy immense influence in large parts of rural Haryana – attended the mahapanchayat.

Tekram Kandela, who heads the Sarv Jatiya Kandela Khap, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah should directly meet with the protesting farmers, who have so far been in talks with Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar.

Support for the farmers in Jind may translate into a backlash mainly for BJP’s Haryana ally Dushyant Chautala, whose party has three MLAs in this district. Mr Chautala is among them. His party fears that not breaking ties with the BJP over the farm laws may cost it in polls.

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