Tractor rally goes off without a hitch in Gurugram
Thousands of farmers from different states who have been protesting at Shahjahanpur and Dharuhera against the farm laws took out a tractor rally on Tuesday via NH-48 on the Delhi-Jaipur highway amid heavy police presence.
Unlike neighbouring Delhi, where clashes broke out between farmers and police, the march remained largely peaceful. An altercation between locals from Sidhrawali and protesting farmers did take place, but the police diffused the situation.
The tractor march began from Masani barrage at Dharuhera and Shahjahanpur at the Haryana-Rajasthan border around 11am and continued till 7pm. Farmers drove on the Delhi-Jaipur expressway for nearly four to five hours to reach the Government Polytechnic at Manesar, near the NSG training centre, from where they took a U-turn to return to their respective protest sites. While farmers from Shahjahanpur covered nearly 56 kilometres, farmers from Dharuhera covered nearly 29 kilometres on their way to Manesar.
Farmers from Mewat also took out a tractor march in the region from Sunehra border to Punhana to Pinangwa to Shikrawa and back to Punhana and Sunehra. Maulana Arshad Meel, who is spearheading the Haryana-Rajasthan Mewati Kisan Andalon (movement) protest at Sunehra-Junehra, said that they covered nearly 50 kilometres. “We can’t estimate but many thousands of people participated in the march today,” said Meel.
To prevent farmers from marching beyond the designated points, the Gurugram police had placed around 150 concrete blocks, weighing 20 tonnes each, to erect a four-foot wall. Over 100 steel containers affixed with heavy bolts and steel chains were also placed on the highway to prevent movement of tractors, said officials. The police also used drones extensively to monitor the movement of protesters and the movement of traffic. A police PCR vehicle and large teams were deployed at each kilometre point. Around 2,000 police personnel were deployed at Sehrwan and 1,200 were deployed at Manesar.
Resham Singh, a farmer from Hanumangarh, said that farmers stuck to their routes and peacefully returned to their protest sites. “We followed the routes and stayed patient despite being attacked by unknown people who threw stones on our convoy. I don’t think the arrangements made by the police were strict. They were not around when people threw stones at us. The march continued peacefully because of farmers. The police had no role to play in the successful conclusion of the march. “
At Dharuhera, the march started after farmers paid tribute and hoisted the Tricolour flag at the site.
Master Harish, 42, a farmer from Khera Khalilpur in Nuh, who arrived at the protest site in Dharuhera on Monday, said that the tractor march would make citizens understand and appreciate the role of farmers. “Farmers are running from pillar to post to get these farm laws repealed. These laws are against farmers and need to be opposed at all costs,” said Harish, who drove a tractor during the march.
Kalwant Singh Bhullar, his companion on the tractor, chimed in agreement. A resident of Hanumangarh in Rajasthan, Bhullar said that the march is the need of the hour. “We feed the country. Be it harsh winter or summer, we toil hard to produce food. We will convince the government,” said Bhullar.
Labh Singh, a farmer from Hanumangarh in Rajasthan, who has been camping at Shahjahanpur protest site since last December, said that the cavalcade of protesting farmers proceeded towards Manesar before returning. “Around 700-800 tractors took part in the tractor rally. The government should now understand that farmers will not give up on their demands. We will now wait for the government to repeal the three laws,” said Singh.
Sanjay Madhav, state convener, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, Rajasthan, said, “While it’s difficult to give a number, 1,500-2,000 tractors from our protest site joined the march today.”
Sukhjeet Singh, a farmer from Padampur in Shri Ganganagar, said that things were bound to change after the tractor march. “We are fighting for the rights of common people,” said Singh.
The Haryana Police had deployed nearly 4,000 personnel at Manesar, Sehrawan and Bilaspur crossing to keep a check on movement of the tractor rally. A U-turn for the protesters had been carved out at Sehrawan, a kilometre before the NSG camp in Manesar.
Police officials said that a divider on the Delhi-Jaipur highway was moved to ensure that tractors could take a U-turn to return. “All the traffic movement was videographed and photographed. Police personnel with water cannon and teargas shells were deployed, but were asked to use these only if required,” said Hitesh Yadav, assistant commissioner of police (Manesar).
Varun Singla, deputy commissioner of police, Gurugram, said that the police had hoisted two large banners of the national flag so that protesters could pay respect. “We also hoped that the farmers would respect the dignity of the national flag and refrain from agitation,” he said.
The police did not allow commuters from Jaipur to enter Manesar the national highway and asked them to take a detour. Even locals who wanted to reach Manesar were forced to take long detours to reach their homes, as they had to go via Jamalpur.
Astha Modi, DCP (headquarters), said, “The teams managed law and order well and rally was carried out in Gurugram and Farrukhnagar. The KMP was closed on Tuesday morning by the Jhajjar police.”