18 opposition parties to boycott President’s address to joint Parliament session expressing solidarity with farmers

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Bula Devi reports from New Delhi

A day ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament, 18 Opposition parties decided to boycott President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to the joint sitting of both Houses in solidarity with the farmers who continued to sit in protests at Delhi’s borders against the three contentious farm laws.

On the ground, tension escalated on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border in Ghazipur as the Noida police asked the farmers to vacate but the protesters refused to leave. The government deployed heavy police contingent and Rapid Action Force. As a consequence, traffic snarls and jams on NH24 built up till a few kilometres causing a frustrating situation for the public.

However, Bharat Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait remained firm and said that he would continue to protest and even die for the cause of the farmers.

Of the 18, as many as 16 parties came together and issued a joint statement announcing their decision. The group led by the Congress included the Nationalist Congress Party, Shiv Sena, Trinamool Congress, DMK amongst many others. Separately, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal announced their decision to boycott the address, too.

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Slamming the government over the violence on the Republic Day, the Opposition has demanded an impartial investigation to reveal the central government’s alleged conspiracy in the violence during the tractor parade to coincide with the Republic Day, said Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Opposition parties which were missing in the list were Bahujan Samaj Party, YSR Congress Party, Biju Janata Dal and AIADMK.

This is the second time major Opposition parties have jointly decided to boycott the President’s address. It was just a year back in January 2020 when leaders from Opposition parties wore black armbands in protest against CAA during the President’s address to both the houses of Parliament.

“The prime minister and the BJP government remain arrogant, adamant and undemocratic in their response. Shocked by this insensitivity of the government, the Opposition political parties, reaffirming the collective demand for the repeal of the anti-farmer laws and in solidarity with the Indian farmers, have decided to boycott the president’s address to both the houses of Parliament on Friday, January 29, 2021,” a joint statement issued by various parties said.

As tension escalated, farmers of Burari also started moving towards Ghazipur. The police asked them to vacate the area. The government extended the deployment period of four companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) till February 4 to maintain law and order situation in Ghaziabad in the backdrop of the farmers’ protest. Earlier, the deployment was till January 28, according to ANI.

“A preliminary assessment suggests there was a pre-conceived and well coordinated plan to break the agreement reached between Delhi Police and leaders of farmers’ organisations. Special Cell is investigating larger conspiracy and criminal designs behind the unfortunate events,” the Delhi Police said.

“A criminal case has been registered and is being investigated under provisions of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and sections of IPC dealing with sedition. Role and conduct of organisations and individuals based in India as well as those out of country is being probed,” the Delhi Police further informed.

In the meantime, the Noida Police has filed FIRs against six senior journalists and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor for “inciting” violence. Among the journalists are Rajdeep Sardesai, Zafar Aga and Mrinal Pande.

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Neeraj Nanda

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