Two-hour farmers’ protest throws traffic out of gear in Ludhiana
A two-hour-long farmers’ protest and the resultant traffic jam left scores of commuters stranded on the busy national highways around the city on Sunday.
Farmers had blocked the Ferozepur Road, Chandigarh Road and Ropar Road near Doraha to protest police lathicharge on protesting farmers in Karnal on Saturday.
Ladhowal toll plaza was the worst hit as serpentine queues of vehicles were seen on both sides of the road. Passengers travelling in buses on GT Road also had a tough time with most seen getting off the bus and walking towards their destination, with luggage in their hands. Those in private vehicles didn’t have any option but to wait for the protest to end.
Heated argument between farmers, BSP workers:
A heated argument broke out between farmers and supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) at the toll plaza as the latter asked for the blockade to be lifted. This irked the farmers who squatted in front of the vehicles of BSP supporters, thereby triggering a clash. However, leaders from both groups intervened and resolved the matter.
Later, BKU leader Gurnam Singh Charuni said that some RSS and BJP workers were trying to sabotage the farmers’ protest by creating a ruckus. He said that no BSP worker or farmer was involved in any scuffle.
Commuters on the receiving end
In the stand-off between the farmers and government, it was the common man who bore the brunt.
Deepak, a commuter headed to Jalandhar, said, “The government has made no efforts to mitigate the farmers’ issue. Because of continued protests, both trade and agriculture have suffered massive losses.”
Referring to a video in which the Karnal sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) was purportedly seen ordering police personnel to “break the heads” of protesting farmers, Deepak said, “While the SDM is now sitting in his air-conditioned (AC) room, it is the common man who has been left to suffer in this scorching heat.”
Similarly, Gurpreet, a resident of Phagwara who was walking from Ludhiana side, said, “I was aware of the protest but I got late. The bus I was travelling in was stopped at Ladhowal Chowk. After waiting for half-an-hour, I decided to walk on the other side of the road. The volunteers at the protest site offered me refreshments while I was walking.”
Among those stranded was a groom who was travelling to Nawanshahr along with his relatives. “The farm law issue has become a matter of egos. Both government and farmers are refusing to relent and it is the common man who is suffering,” said the groom.
Tarsem Singh, a factory employee from Jalandhar who was stuck in Ludhiana due to the absence of transportation service, said, “I forgot that there was a farmers’ protest today. I came here for some work a few days ago and planned to return today. On reaching Jalandhar Bypass, I learnt that due to protests, the transportation services have been stalled. I don’t know what to do now.”
Though roads were blocked for public movement, farmers cleared the passage for ambulances.
Saudagar Singh Ghudani from BKU Ugrahan said, “The agitation is no longer a farmers’ protest; it has taken the shape of a non-violent civil resistance. People are reaching the protest site to show solidarity with farmers. But we regret the inconvenience caused to the public.”
Women join in large numbers
A huge number of women also joined the protest and raised slogans against SDM Ayush Sinha, who had purportedly instructed the police to break the head of the protestors. The protesting women demanded sacking and immediate arrest of SDM Sinha.
“The protesting woman said the government should set an example so that such an incident is not repeated again,” said Parminder Kaur of Sidhwan Kalan.
At 2pm, the protesting farmers decided to lift the blockade. However, it took nearly an hour for the traffic to normalise.