Protest may intensify, farmers from 4 states look to join stir
Punjab and Haryana farmers protesting in Delhi on Friday got support from their counterparts in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, who will join the stir in the next few days, farmer leaders from these states said.
Protests were observed on Friday in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh as well. There could be a possible stand-off on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh interstate border on Saturday as farmers from UP, Uttarakhand and MP will try to enter the Capital from there.
After battling teargas shells and water cannons for hours on Friday at the Delhi-Haryana border in Sonipat and Jhajjar, thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana were allowed in the evening to enter through the Tikri border and hold their protest at Burari in north-west Delhi against the three newly enacted farm laws -- The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 -- passed by Parliament in its monsoon session.
At Singhu border, which falls on the Grand Trunk road, where thousands of tracker trolleys are stranded with farmers, police did not allow entry till late in the evening. Haryana police officials said there were many farmers in cars, buses and tracker trolleys headed towards Delhi from different highways in the state. Farmers’ organisations have been demanding that the laws be repealed and replaced with a new act assuring minimum support price (MSP) for all agriculture produce in the country.
Farmer bodies in at least 12 districts of Uttar Pradesh held protests and blocked traffic on highways in the state on Friday, with leaders calling the farmers to start a march towards Delhi from Saturday. Dharmendra Malik, state spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, said the union decided that farmers would start marching towards Delhi in their tractor trolleys.
“Five lakh farmers had staged a protest in Delhi for seven days in 1988 under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Tikait, compelling the then Rajiv Gandhi government at the Centre to accept their demands. Farmers would force the Modi government to withdraw the bills,” he said.
A large number of farmers from Madhya Pradesh, who were trying to join the protest of farmers from Punjab and Haryana in Delhi, staged a protest near Agra at national highway-3 on Friday as UP police didn’t allow them to go further towards the Capital.
Madhya Pradesh Kisan Sangh general secretary Akhilesh Singh said, “The farmers from MP had been trying to reach Delhi to join the peaceful protest since Wednesday night but UP police were stopping them. On Friday morning, they sat on a dharna near Agra on national highway-3 and halted traffic for more than five hours.” Later in the evening, they were allowed to proceed towards the Capital on the Delhi-Mathura-Agra highway.
All India Kisan Sabha members from Rajasthan mobilised farmers from Sri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh and Sikar districts to join the stir. “The farmers from Rajasthan will be joining the Delhi Chalo movement in the next few days. We have held solidarity protests in various parts of the state on Friday,” said Amra Ram, a former lawmaker and general secretary of the Kisan Sabha.
Farmers in tractor trolleys from the paddy bowl of Uttarakhand, Uddham Singh Nagar, were stopped in UP’s Rampur from proceeding to Delhi. They started an indefinite sit-in at Rampur national highway and blocked traffic. They were joined by local farmers from UP.
Tajendra Singh Virk, president, Terai Kisan Sangathan, Uddham Singh Nagar, said, “UP police are not allowing us to head to Delhi on the pretext of the Covid-19 outbreak. We have decided that we will continue our sit-in and camp here till the police allow us to go to Delhi.”
UP police deployed heavy force on the Rampur highway to prevent farmers from reaching Delhi. “Farmers are already in a pathetic condition due to the government’s policies. These farm bills will further aggravate our problems. So we’re left with no other option but to raise our voice in Delhi,” Virk said.
There were protests in several places in Maharashtra such as Thane, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Sangli and Wardha with farm leaders saying they would decide in a few days whether to join the stir in Delhi. Ashok Dhawale, national president of the All India Kisan Sabha, said, “Thursday’s was a countrywide protest. Punjab and Haryana are not the only states affected.” In the meantime, farmers have decided to organise sit-ins over the next 4-5 days in Maharashtra.
Farmers in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada city held a solidarity protest under the aegis of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee.
The protesters were detained by police after they had a minor clash with them.