‘Delhi Chalo’ march: Farmers 100 km away, police beef up security at border
The farmers from Haryana and Punjab, who have planned a ‘Delhi Chalo’ march against three farm laws passed by Centre, were involved in violent clashes with the police at the border as they tried to enter the national capital.
The protesting farmers faced water cannons and broke police barricades at some places in Haryana. A large group of them reached the toll plaza in Panipat, about 100 km from Delhi, late on Thursday evening. The farmer bodies, which are spearheading the protests, said the protesters planned to spend the night there and will resume the march the next morning.
Haryana Police chief Manoj Yadava said his force acted with “great restraint”.
“In this entire episode, not only a number of police personnel were injured, but police and private vehicles were also damaged,” he said in a statement on Thursday. The DGP also said that the protesters hurled stones at many places.
The reports of face-offs between the protesters and police came from Haryana’s Sirsa, Kurukshetra, Fatehabad and Jind districts.
Police had placed cement and steel barricades and parked trucks on the road to stop the farmers’ tractor-trolleys, some of them laden with food for the planned two-day protest, which many felt could extend further. Police used water cannons also against protesters trying to enter Kaithal district, and at Khanauri border.
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal were among the opposition leaders who slammed the Haryana Police action.
Punjab chief minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh and his Haryana counterpart, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Manohar Lal Khattar, traded barbs over Twitter.
The Congress veteran asked Khattar why his government was stopping farmers, and the BJP leader told him to stop “inciting” them.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sukhbir Singh Badal too criticised attempts to thwart the protest. “Today is Punjab’s 26/11. We are witnessing the end of the right to democratic protest,” he tweeted.
Ahead of the protest, Haryana had announced sealing its borders with Punjab to prevent farmers from entering the state on their way to Delhi.
The Delhi Police have denied permission to the farmer organisations planning to protest in the national capital. They have beefed up in border areas by deploying additional personnel and stationing sand-laden trucks and water cannons. A fence of barbed wire has also been set up at Singhu Border to prevent the protesters from entering Delhi.
The police deployment has also been made at NH-24, DND, Chilla Border, Tigri border, Bahadurgarh border, Fridabad border and Kalindi Kunj border.
The farmers’ bodies have, meanwhile, said that the protesters will hold a dharna wherever they are stopped from moving towards the national capital.
These farmers are demanding the repeal of the new farm laws, which, they say should be replaced with another set of legislations framed after wider consultation with the stakeholders. They also want a guarantee on the minimum support prices (MSP). The Centre has, however, allayed all concerns over MSP and has even invited these farmers for talks.
Speaking on Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS) on Thursday, defence minister Rajnath Singh appealed the farmers to end their protest.
“I appeal to farmers to end their protest. We are not against them, and are open for talks. They should understand that the newly-passed farm bills will benefit small farmers,” he said.
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