Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik told The Indian Express on Sunday that he has advised the Central government that farmers cannot be insulted and forced to step back, and that the government should talk to them to resolve the ongoing crisis.
Malik, a Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh, said the situation had been made worse by the UP Police’s attempt to evict the agitating farmers from Ghaziabad earlier this week.
“I am a person who is holding a constitutional post. I should not make any comments like this. But it’s an issue of farmers, and I cannot keep quiet. I have already requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the issue immediately through discussions,” Malik told The Indian Express over the telephone.
“The farmers cannot be sent back insulted. You cannot humiliate them and send them back from the protests. You should engage them in a conversation,” Malik said. “Prime Minister Modi has a lot of support among the farmers. He has power. He should show magnanimity and discuss the issues to resolve them,” he said.
The issue can be resolved if the government shows intent, the Governor said. “The farm leaders from Western UP have said they are open to resolving the issue. The farmers are ready… If the government has the intention, it can be sorted out,” he said.
Since Friday, farmers from villages in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have been making their way to the Ghazipur protest site, driving tractor trolleys and trucks loaded with rations and water bottles.
The long-running agitation, which suffered a blow after the incidents at Red Fort on Republic Day, was quickly revived after the UP Police tried to remove the protesting farmers led by BKU leader Rakesh Tikait. Visuals of Tikait, a prominent farm leader from UP’s sugar belt, in tears, had galvanised the farmers.
Malik headed a BJP panel that sought feedback on the controversial land acquisition Bill, and had advised the government to repeal it in 2015. He was transferred from the Raj Bhavan in Patna to be the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir in 2018, and was moved to Goa after the constitutional changes of August 2019. In less than a year, he was transferred again to Meghalaya.
Malik, who is known for being outspoken, received his early political training from former Prime Minister and prominent farmer leader Charan Singh.
“I have constraints in expressing my views publicly. But I have reached my views to the Home Minister (Amit Shah) and the Prime Minister,” Malik said. “They are aware of the situation, but I should give my feedback. They are also sympathetic to the farmers’ concerns.”
Asked whether the police action against the protesters had made the situation worse, Malik said: “Certainly. The Ghaziabad action has provoked the farmers again. See, now it has spread to Western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. All roads to Delhi had to be closed.”