Spotlight turns on protest hotspots in Punjab as farmers intensify stir against agriculture lawsUpdated: Oct 02, 2020, 02:21 IST
The 31 farmer organisations that intensified their stir across Punjab against the Centre’s agriculture laws on Thursday are focusing on certain points that have emerged as the protest hotspots from where they want to take their fight forward. HT visits these sites to check what is happening on the ground.
Devi Dasspura, Amritsar
With members of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee laying siege to the Amritsar-Delhi railway route for the eighth consecutive day on Thursday against the Centre’s agriculture bills, Devi Dasspura village of Amritsar district has turned into an epicentre of the ‘rail roko’ agitation in the Majha region.
Nearly 18 km from the Amritsar city and 3km from Jandiala Guru town, Devi Dasspura, which has a considerable population of farmers, is situated along the National Highway-1. The farmers have also blocked the rail tracks in Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur districts of the region.
Led by Sarwan Singh Pandher, state general secretary of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, the agitating farmers have pitched tents on both sides of the tracks. A makeshift stage has been set up with a public address system to address the protesters from time to time. A separate tent has been set up for a community kitchen (langar) where food is prepared and served by volunteers of the Kar Sewa and nihang organisations.
Besides plain water, sweet coloured water and shardai, a traditional beverage usually prepared with a variety of ingredients by nihangs, are served to the those from kiosks at the protest site.Also, vendors are seen selling ‘matka kulfi’ and ‘gol gappas’ etc.
Farmers from Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran districts are also coming to the village participate in the agitation.
Situated on the Punjab-Haryana interstate border, Shambu village in the Patiala district has turned into a major hotspot of farmer protests in the area. While 31 farmer organisations laid siege to the railway tracks on New Delhi-Rajpura line here on Thursday for an indefinite period, the village has been witnessing protests since September 23 against the farm legislations.
On September 20, the Youth Congress workers had organised a protest at nearby Dhabu after they were stopped by the Haryana Police from entering the neighbouring state. Three days later, hundreds of protesters led by Punjab MLAs Simarjeet Singh Bains and his brother Balwinder Singh Bains held a protest at Shambu as they were also denied entry into Haryana while taking out a procession to the national capital.
On September 25, thousands of farmers accompanied by social organisations and Punjabi artists staged a protest at the village, blocking the national highway throughout the day as part of their Punjab bandh call.
Not only farmers, the youth from rural areas of the nearby districts, particularly Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib, joined farmers in huge numbers.
Harbhajan Singh Buttar, a Krantikari Kisan Union leader, said the protest site was chosen due to its proximity with the New Delhi- Jalandhar national highway.
“With Haryana restricting the entry of farmers, protest at Shambu will give a clear message that if they don’t allow us to move to Delhi, we will block the rail route and the national highway,” he said.
Hundreds of farmers owing allegiance to the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and the Jamhuri Kisan Sabha on Thursday started the ‘rail roko’ agitation and blocked the Phillaur railway junction in Jalandhar district in protest against the farm bills.
Farmers from Jalandhar, Kapurthala and the Malwa region gathered at the junction in the afternoon and announced to hold a protest for indefinite period asking the BJP led Union government to withdraw the farm bills and guarantee minimum support price (MSP) for crops.
A large number of farmers from SBS Nagar, Jalandhar, Phagwara and Goraya gathered and pitched tents on the railway track. Similar rail roko protests were witnessed at Doraha, Jagraon and Samrala in Ludhiana where farmers put their charpoys on the railway tracks.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the BKU (Rajewal) said while the economy was completely in shambles, the farming sector was the only saving gracing. “But the BJP government at the Centre wants to usurp this sector and hand it over to its crony capitalist friends. But the farmers in Punjab will not let this happen and fight till the time the laws are withdrawn,” said Rajewal.
Surinder Singh, a farmer from Phagwara, said the Centre is trying to grab their land. “The Narendra Modi-led government has betrayed the farmers. If this government was really concerned about the welfare of farmers, it should have promised MSP to farmers,” he said.
Lehra Bega, Bathinda
A strong gathering of nearly 1,000 farmers led by a woman leader, Paramjit Kaur Pitho, from Thursday started an indefinite dharna at the toll plaza on National Highway-7 at Lehra Bega village in Bathinda district against the farm laws.
Activists of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugraha) have put up tents forcing the agency collecting highway user fees to close the booths. Only one motorway was kept open on both sides and there was no toll plaza official to collect fee from vehicles.
The site, located about 20km from Bathinda city, also had women protesters.
BKU leader Paramjit said the site was chosen as a symbol to hit the corporate houses directly at their revenue points. “Our activists have started staging a dharna at a Reliance Group-owned petrol pump a few meters from the toll plaza. The corporate houses are making inroads for the agriculture sector in connivance with the Central government,” she said to a thunderous applause from the gathering.
The organisers have arranged a generator set to power pedestal fans and a public address system. During the lunchtime, the volunteers served the participants with chapati, pickle, lassi and tea at the dharna site.
Beant Singh Jethuke, another union leader, urged farmers to motivate fellow villagers to join the stir to press for a rollback of new laws.
(Inputs by Surjit Singh, Navrajdeep Singh, Mohit Khanna, Jatinder Mahal, Vishal Joshi)