Farmers start relay hunger strike, UP Gate border blocked briefly
A relay hunger strike at Delhi’s borders – Singhu, Tikri, UP Gate and Chilla – that the farmer unions had announced a day earlier, started on Monday as the protest against the three farm laws entered into its 26th day.
Farmer leaders said they have also urged the people of India to “beat thalis and other utensils at their homes” on December 27 (Sunday) and to boycott Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Mann ki Baat”.
“We also request everyone to skip one meal on Wednesday to show solidarity towards our movement. Between December 24 and December 26, farmers will take their protests to toll plazas in Haryana and will make them free for all. On Sunday, we will be beating thalis while the PM addresses the nation through his Maan ki Baat programme,” said Manjeet Rai, national president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Doaba).
Except Ghazipur(Delhi)-Ghaziabad (UP Gate) border — where hundreds of protesting farmers blocked the entire carriageways of Delhi-Meerut Expressway and its service roads for nearly an hour in the afternoon — the agitation on Monday continued to remain peaceful.
Farmers at UP Gate said that the blockade was done to protest against the Uttar Pradesh administration that, they alleged, was stopping farmers at various places in the state and in Uttarakhand from marching to Delhi borders.
The sudden closure of the carriageways going towards Ghaziabad from Delhi triggered traffic jams on Monday. The blockade happened around 3.30pm, but was cleared an hour later, following a meeting of officials of UP administration with the famer leaders. The other carriageway — Ghaziabad to Delhi — is blocked by protesting farmers since Day 1 of their protest. The movement of only emergency vehicles is allowed through that carriageway.
At the Singhu border, 11 farmers, mostly leaders of different groups from Punjab, started the hunger protest between 9am and 11am on the main stage that is being used by the leaders to address the gathering. The same number of farmers sat on the relay hunger strike at the other borders as well, declaring that another 11 will replace the first group after 24 hours of fasting and this strike would continue till the government accepts their demands.
“Through our relay hunger strike, we want to convey a message that the country’s farmers “annadata” (food provider/farmers) are fasting for their rights. This strike will continue,” said Gurbaksh Singh Barnala of Jai Kisan Andolan.
Since the temperature saw a marginal increase on Monday, it provided respite to the farmers from the biting cold that they had been braving for the past few days. At many places, elderly protesters, who had been staying inside tents or tractor trolleys to avoid the cold, were seen sitting in groups under the sun, sipping tea and raising slogans against the government.
The Singhu and Tikri borders are completely blocked for any vehicular movement for the last 26 days. Hundreds of trolleys, trucks and four-wheelers are parked on both the carriageways as well as the service roads at the Singhu border. The fleet of vehicles and tents on the roads of the protesting farmers extends to nearly 6-7 kilometres into Haryana, while concrete and iron barriers with barbed wires atop, containers, and sand laden trucks have formed three layers of blockade put in place by the police to stop the agitating farmers from moving into Delhi.
Farmers write letters in blood to PM
On Monday, two separate NGOs from Punjab’s Ludhiana set up blood donation camps at the Singhu border. Some of the farmers were also spotted writing their names with their blood on white papers. Many of them also wrote letters in blood addressing the Prime Minister and requesting him to repeal the three farm laws.
“Nearly 70 farmers have donated their blood till afternoon and wrote their names and letters to the PM. The lists and the letters will now be sent to the PM either physically or through post. We hope the government will understand our pain, which they have described in the letters with their blood, and scrap the farm laws,” said Taranjeet Singh Nimana, who runs Bhai Ghanaiya Ji Misson Sewa Society, one of the two NGOs.
The blood donated by the farmers will be sent to various hospitals in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi to help the needy people, said Dr. Bhupinder Singh, who was leading a five-member team of doctors and nursing staff.
Later in the day, chief fire officer from Uttar Pradesh fire department Sunil Kumar Singh said that some dry grass and garbage caught fire in the forested area some distance away from the protest venue at the UP Gate border towards Delhi side in the evening.
“We already have three-four fire tenders stationed at the protest venue. One of them was parked closed the place where the fire broke out. It doused the blaze within 10 minutes,” said the fire officer.