Farmers get DDMA nod to protest at Jantar Mantar till August 9
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on Wednesday allowed farmer groups to protest at Jantar Mantar from July 22 to August 9, with a maximum of 200 people in attendance and Covid-19 appropriate protocols in place, even though large gatherings continue to remain prohibited in the national capital in light of the pandemic.
The authority’s decision came three days after a Delhi Police delegation met farmer leaders at Singhu border and asked them to reconsider their proposed march to the Parliament on July 22 and a protest that they planned to start on the same day, citing DDMA orders that prohibit religious, cultural, political, sports, academic and other gatherings in the city to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“I am directed to convey the approval of Lieutenant Governor Delhi / Chairperson of Delhi Disaster Management Authority for staggered protest at Jantar Mantar by maximum 200 protesting farmers / member of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha everyday from 22.07.2021 to 09.08.2021 between 11 am and 5 pm,” said the DDMA in a letter to the Delhi Police on Wednesday, a copy of which HT has seen.
Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal is the DDMA chairperson, and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal the vice-chairperson.
After the order, Delhi Police stepped up security arrangements at the protest venue, and several senior Delhi Police officers, including police chief Balaji Srivastava, visited Jantar Mantar to check the preparations in place. Between 200 and 300 security personnel are expected to be deployed in and around Jantar Mantar and adjoining roads during the protest.
In a statement, Delhi Police spokesperson Chinmoy Biswal said: “After multiple rounds of negotiations with farmers bodies... and on being assured in writing that they will remain peaceful and with the approval of DDMA, they have been permitted to protest at Jantar Mantar with limited numbers... They will be escorted to the designated location from Singhu border in buses. They have been advised to observe Covid-appropriate behaviour and social distancing... Delhi Police has put in place extensive arrangements to ensure that the protest programme remains peaceful.”
Farmers have been protesting on the different borders of the national capital since November 26 last year against three newly enacted farm laws. Farmer leaders and the Centre have held several rounds of talks but the impasse remains.
Farmer unions are planning to intensify their nearly eight-month-long stir by protesting till the scheduled end of Parliament’s monsoon session, to demand the scrapping of the three farm laws passed in September last year. The monsoon session of Parliament began on July 19 and is scheduled to end on August 13.
The protest call was given by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the agitation against the contentious farm laws.
When asked about the current guidelines, which prohibit gatherings, a senior DDMA official, who asked not to be named, said the permission is an “exemption” in the light of “inputs” received from the Delhi Police.
The Delhi Police have taken an undertaking from SKM, an umbrella body of about 40 farmers’ groups, that their protest will be peaceful and the 200 protesters at the venue will observe Covid-appropriate behaviour. They will also not attempt to leave the protest site or disrupt Parliament, senior police officers aware of the matter said.
The police on Wednesday installed CCTV cameras in and around the protest venue. Except the 200 protesters, who will carry identify cards issued by the SKM, mediapersons and security personnel, no member of the public will be allowed at the protest site, said a senior police officer, who asked not to be named.
Another police officer said that an escort team will reach Singhu border on Thursday morning and check five buses and an SUV in which the farmers will travel to Jantar Mantar. The ID cards of the participants, issued by the SKM, will be checked before allowing them inside the vehicles, which the farmers will arrange.
“An ambulance will also accompany the police escort team and farmers’ vehicles. The security of the routes that the buses would take will be the responsibility of the district police concerned. After the protest ends, farmers will be escorted back to Singhu border,” the second officer said.
Senior Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait group) leader Rakesh Tikait said that a fresh lot of 200 farmers, duly verified by the SKM and with valid ID cards, will visit Jantar Mantar every day, as part of the ‘Kisan Sansad’.
“We never said anything about ‘sansad gherao’, but holding a kisan sansad at any place outside Parliament where the public is allowed. The 200 farmers who will participate in the protest will follow all Covid guidelines. It will be a peaceful agitation,” said Tikait.
SKM in a press statement said, “From tomorrow, Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s contingents of two hundred farmers each would reach Jantar Mantar to protest against the government, and hold their own Kisan Sansads on each working day of the Parliament, until the monsoon session ends [on August 13]. Preparations are underway for the same...”
Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh national president Shiv Kumar Kakka, who was part of the nine-member coordination committed that held two meetings with Delhi Police in the last three days, said the police asked them to reduce the number of protesters at the site.
“We turned this request down, saying that many farmers groups are part of the agitation, and we have to take two or three representatives from each group,” he said.