Farmers in several states join agitation, sit on hunger strike
Farmers across several states observed a one-day hunger strike on Monday, blocking roads, marching on streets, and shouting slogans to protest against three recently enacted agriculture laws that have sparked a fierce agitation on the outskirts of Delhi.
A group of farmers tried to block the Delhi-Jaipur national highway at Shahjanpur on the Haryana-Rajasthan border, but were prevented by the police. At Ghazipur on the Delhi-Noida border, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Takait) faction blocked traffic for some time. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait) chief Rakesh Takait said the traffic was blocked to tell the administration that they could block the vehicular flow if they chose, but the unions later desisted to ensure people were not inconvenienced.
“The hunger strike call given by farmer leaders was successful,” said Baldev Singh, a farmer leader at Singhu, situated at the border of Delhi and Haryana where a large number of farmers are gathered since November 27.
In Punjab and Haryana, farmers shouted slogans outside the offices of district commissioners and took out protest marches. Haryana Police closed the Ambala-Patiala highway after protesters gathered at the Shambhu border point with adjoining Punjab. “We wanted to send out a strong message to the government that it is not just an agitation by Punjab farmers but across the nation,” said Shiv Kumar Kakka, one of the farm leaders who went on a nine-hour hunger strike at Singhu,
The ruling Congress held protests in Punjab, with the state unit chief Sunil Jakhar participating in one near the Shambhu border. Shiromani Akali Dal workers protested in Amritsar. Farm groups held events in Ludhiana, Patiala, Sangrur, Barnala, Bathinda, Moga, Faridkot, Ferozepur and Tarn Taran.
“Farmers held protests outside the offices of deputy commissioners at several places in Punjab,” Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said. This particular union didn’t participate in the strike, alleging they were not consulted before finalising the programme.
In Haryana, farmers hit the streets before holding demonstrations outside the offices of deputy commissioners (DCs). Many employees associations backed the protests, which roiled Rohtak, Hisar, Bhiwani, Sonepat, Jhajjar, Jind, and Fatehabad.
“Everybody should come forward to join this fight for the future of the farming community. We are happy with the support from different sections and sectors,” said Ratan Mann, Haryana BKU (Tikait) state president.
In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party workers clashed with police at various places as they were prevented from heading towards collector offices in several districts. Clashes were reported from Lucknow, Hardoi, Agra, Gorakhpur, Etawah and some other districts.
Protests were also reported from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar, Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala.
Superintendent of Police (Bhiwandi) Ram Moorthi Joshi said: “The protest is going on peacefully and we have deployed additional police force to ensure traffic on highway moves smoothly.”
As night fell over the stretch of road that is now a protest ground in Singhu, people shouted slogans, held up placards and torches. “The message of the fast was that the nation’s ‘annadata’, food provider, was today sitting hungry,” said Harender Singh Lakhowal, a farm leader. Police enhanced security at Delhi’s border points. Containers, cemented barriers, barbed wires and additional police force were deployed at borders.