Union Minister Meenakshi Lekhi Thursday apologised for her “hooligans not farmers” remarks, saying that her statement on the alleged attack on a media person during the “Farmers’ Parliament” at Jantar Mantar was “‘misinterpreted”.
A senior video journalist of a leading media channel was allegedly attacked during the protest organised by farmers against the three farm laws at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.
“During a press conference today, my comment was sought on the Red Fort violence on January 26 and the attack on a media person (at Farmers’ Parliament). In response, I said only hooligans, not farmers can indulge in such activities,” the newly inducted Union Minister of State for External Affairs said Thursday.
“My words have been distorted, if it has hurt farmers or any anyone else, then I apologise and take back my words,” the minister told news agency ANI.
“Some people were making videos and verbally abusing media. After a fight, a man hit me on the head with a light stand. He hit me thrice with the light stand. The man had an ID of some sort that said Kisan Media. I am not sure if he was a farmer but it appeared he was sympathetic towards the cause of the farmers,” the video journalist, who was allegedly attacked at the protest site, told the news agency.
At the press conference, Ms Lekhi said: “They are not farmers, they are hooligans… These are criminal acts. What happened on January 26 was also shameful criminals activities. Opposition promoted such activities.”
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait took cognisance of the comment and said that farmers are “annadatas” (providers of food) and not “hooligans”.
“Hooligans are those who have nothing. It is wrong to make such remarks for farmers. We are farmers, not hooligans. Farmers are ‘anndatas’ of the land,” Mr Tikait said.
“Such a remark is an insult to 80 crore farmers of India. If we are hooligans, Meenakshi Lekhi ji should stop eating food grown by us. She should be ashamed of herself. We have passed a resolution in ‘Farmers’ Parliament condemning her statement,” another farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka said.
Mr Kakka also said that action should be taken against the person who had allegedly attacked the journalist. “No matter which organisation the attacker belongs to – be it from the police or the government – we should ensure that action is taken and such incidents don’t happen again.”
Farmers, protesting at Delhi’s borders, have been permitted to hold a ‘Farmers Parliament’ from Thursday at Jantar Mantar limited number of attendees not exceeding 200 persons for Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) and six persons for Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) from 11 am to 5 pm daily.
Farmers have been protesting at the different borders of the national capital since November 26 last year against three farm laws. So far, several rounds of talks, held between the Centre and farmer leaders to break the deadlock between the two parties, have failed to yield any result.