Farm reform bills: Protesters lay siege to Ferozepur Road in Ludhiana
Activists affiliated with at least 13 farmer and trade unions laid siege to Ferozepur Road outside the Mini Secretariat on Monday to register their protest against the contentious farm reform laws.
A farmer leader, requesting anonymity, said, “Instead of rolling back the laws, the Centre is maligning farmers as Khalistanis and beguiled men backed by urban naxals.”
The protest, which began as a peaceful sit-in, turned disruptive when workers of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrah faction) laid siege to both sides of the road and demanded that deputy commissioner Varinder Kumar Sharma visit the site and receive their memorandum. This led to a mammoth traffic jam on both sides of the busy Ferozepur Road. Serpentine queues enveloped Bhai Wala Chowk and Bharat Nagar Chowk.
Soon, the traffic police swung into action and diverted vehicles heading from Jagraon Bridge to Mall Road and Bus stand, while the traffic heading from Bhai Bala Chowk was diverted towards Pakhowal Road and Ghumar Mandi. The change in routes led to further chaos in Fountain Chowk and other parts of the city.
Protest lasted two hours
The traffic conundrum lasted for nearly two hours as protesters raised slogans against the ruling BJP government and the local administration. The farmers were backed by lawyers and the Sanchar Nigam Executive Association, a body representing 900 BSNL officials. Some industrialists also formed a human chain on National Highway- 44 near Dhandari to support the protesting farmers.
Eight BKU farmer bodies that were protesting at a fuel station near Bharat Nagar Chowk were seen instructing their volunteers not to interact with the media saying a few irresponsible statements had dented their protest. The activists held placards explaining how the new bills were anti-farmer and pro-corporate.
The protesters were only pacified after Sharma arrived on the site and received their memorandum around 4pm.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Ugraha’s Ahmedgarh block in-charge Gurmail Singh said, “Our non-violent protest is our strength. Until yesterday, the government was not bothered by our plight but now the world is taking note of our protest. The government is dismissing us as ‘anti-nationals’ and our protest as ‘politically motivated’ but their tactics to tarnish our image seems to be backfiring on them.”
“The meetings between the Centre and farmer leaders have exposed the ministers’ agenda. The incumbent regime is only looking forward to benefit their crony-capitalist friends,” he said.
On why the farmers were not accepting the proposed amendments, he said, “The big corporates would ensure the amendments are tweaked, scrapping the laws is the only solution.”
‘All sections of society on guillotine’
Retired excise and taxation officer Balkaur Singh, who is not associated with the Ugraha faction, said, “This is not a mere farmer protest. All sections of society will be affected. If the big corporates occupy each sector, land owners, and grocery owners will be reduced to peasants and work for them.”
Amrik Singh Kadian of the BKU Kadian faction said, “We will not leave the Singhu Border until the government scraps the three controversial laws. They are testing our patience, but with each passing day our protest is gathering momentum. It is heartening to see that even after being beaten up, none of our protesting farmers have resorted to violence. We will emerge victorious in the end.”