After govt no to police request, AAP leaders camp at Burari farmers’ protest site
The Delhi government on Friday rejected Delhi Police’s request to convert nine stadiums into temporary prisons as farmer groups demanding the roll-back of three contentious farm laws reached the Capital.
This was the first time in recent years such a request was turned down, police said.
Later in the day, when a gathering of protesting farmers was allowed at the Nirankari ground in north Delhi’s Burari, leaders of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were spotted, helping with basic arrangements ranging from food and drinking water to setting up temporary toilets.
On Thursday, when Delhi Police stepped up security at the borders to stop the protesters from approaching the city, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had spoken out in support of he farmers, upholding their constitutional right to peacefully protest and urging the Centre to roll back the laws.
The three laws are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. AAP had voted against the Bills earlier this year in both the Lok Sabha (in which the part has one MP) and the Rajya Sabha (three MPs).
A large number of protesting farmers are from Punjab, where AAP is the principal opposition party and its lone Lok Sabha MP is from that state.
On Friday, Delhi’s home minister Satyendar Jain said in a letter to Delhi Police, “The demands of the farmers are justified. The central government should accept them. It is a peaceful protest. It won’t be appropriate to jail farmers for that. Peaceful protest is a constitutional right of every Indian citizen. They cannot be jailed for that. We deny the Delhi Police’s application for permission in this regard.”
A copy of the letter was shared by AAP on its social media handles.
Senior government officials said Delhi Police had sought permission from the Delhi home department through a letter on Wednesday.
Jain later told the media, “Jailing them isn’t the solution to the issue. Their demands must be accepted.”
Soon, several other leaders of the party weighed in.
AAP leader Harpal Singh Cheema, who is Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, said, “Arvind Kejriwal was the only chief minister across the country who led a ‘dharna’ at Jantar Mantar against the three anti-farmer agriculture laws. Arvind Kejriwal had demanded an immediate repeal of the laws. I thank him for today’s decision.”
AAP’s Greater Kailash MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj said: “It is the constitutional right of farmers to protest. It’s beyond imagination how the central government could think of jailing them for that.” The ruling party’s Rajendra Nagar MLA Raghav Chadha was also at the Nirankari ground, making arrangements.
“While you can see the BJP government using water cannons on those who are responsible for feeding each and every one of us, the Arvind Kejriwal government has made arrangements of drinking water tankers for our farmers. The Delhi Jal Board appointed nodal officers to ensure proper supply and arrangement of drinking water for the peaceful protestors at Burari ,” said Chadha, who is also vice-chairperson of the Delhi Jal Board.
Revenue minister Kailash Gahlot directing officials to set up temporary toilets and sheds in the open ground for the farmers and ensure Covid-related regulations are followed.
BJP MLA Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, said: “The BJP understands farmers better than any other party. AAP should look at the condition of farmers in Delhi. In Delhi, farmers are charged road tax for tractors, which are considered commercial vehicles. Most states exempt farmers from such taxes. The Delhi government has promised 50% over MSP for wheat and paddy. They should tell Delhi farmers how much wheat and paddy have the government procured in the last few years at the MSP. The Delhi government charges Rs 8 per unit for water connections used for irrigation, whereas other states provide subsidy on such bills.”
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- A PCR call was received at around 1 am at Tughlaq Road police station reporting that some people were shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans near Khan Market metro station