People gather before taking part in a tractor rally to protest against farm laws in Bengaluru(Reuters)
People gather before taking part in a tractor rally to protest against farm laws in Bengaluru(Reuters)

Rally to langar: Peaceful stir held across 20 states

  • In contrast to the violence seen in the Capital, farmers held peaceful rallies across the country to protest against the farm laws.
By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2021 04:36 AM IST

Farm bodies and unions across the country carried out protests, including tractor rallies, that were largely peaceful on Tuesday, in contrast to the violence seen in Delhi where farmers deviated from previously agreed-upon routes, broke through barricades, and stormed the Red Fort.

Around the country, protests were reported from at least 20 states as farmers took out rallies and held gatherings in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and even Himachal Pradesh, among others, to protest against the three farm laws passed by the Centre in September last year.

In Punjab, farmers held a tractor parade in districts such as Patiala and Sangrur, which caused traffic jams , especially on highways leading into and out of Punjab, but there were no reports of violence.

According to farmer bodies in Punjab, villages on the route organized food (langar) for the farmers and volunteers provided free medical services.

Jang Singh, district president of Krantikari Kisaan Union, said Tuesday would be remembered across the country as a day when a huge number of people took to the streets to fight for their rights.

“The farmers are not going to relent till the government repeals these three acts, which will destroy the livelihoods of the farmers if are implemented,” he said.

Farmers mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh have been at the border points of the national capital since November 26, 2020, demanding legal backing for minimum support price (MSP) as well as a complete repeal of the three newly-enacted farm laws — 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 — which they contend, will allow multinational companies to use the sector to maximise their profits at the expense of the farmers.

The Centre has however held that the laws will not be repealed, but the government is willing to sit with the farmers to discuss the problematic clauses. The 11th round of negotiations between the state and farmers took place on January 22 ended in a deadlock.

Farmer leaders said at least one person from each of the around 12,000 villages in Punjab was in Delhi to participate in the protests.

In Haryana, farmers across the state carried out peaceful tractor marches and raised slogans against the Central government.

Except Faridabad, where the police had to baton charge farmers trying to enter Delhi, no untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the state, said director general of police, Manoj Yadava. In many places, there was festive fervour at the tractor parades in which women from villages participated in large numbers, farmer leaders said.

In Mumbai, the farmers concluded their protest at Azad Maidan, which began at noon with the unfurling of the flag, which was attended by farmers from across Maharashtra.

Farmer leaders described the agitation as successful saying they were able to send a message that the state’s farmers are united against the farm laws.

“The Mumbai agitation sent a message to the agitating farmers at Delhi’s borders that we are firmly behind them and will not relent till these regressive farm laws are withdrawn,” said Ajit Navale, convenor, Samyukt Shetkari Kamgar Morcha (SSKM) which organised this protest. The protest in Mumbai was supported by the state government.

On Tuesday, 73-year old farmer Yamunabai hoisted the tricolor along with Maharashtra assembly speaker Nana Patole. later in the day, farmers started leaving Mumbai for their homes.

In Karnataka, protestors managed to enter Bengaluru in support of agitating farmers in Delhi. The Karnataka police on Monday afternoon agreed to allow around 125 tractors to enter the city.

Social media was flooded with videos of farmers sloganeering after they were restricted from entering Bengaluru, where protestors planned to carry out a rally . “We are organising vehicles for all those who have gathered here to be taken into Bengaluru by other modes of transport,” said a farmer, who is coordinating efforts on the Mysuru highway.

In Tamil Nadu, farmers and workers belonging to labour unions of the DMK and its allies including the Left parties participated in the tractor rally across various districts. While the rallies ended peacefully by afternoon, there were some minor clashes between the police and farmers in a few districts. No injuries were reported.

The state’s main opposition party, DMK and its allies have protested and launched hunger strikes in support of the agitating farmers in Delhi in the recent months. However, the ruling AIADMK government, which is allied with the NDA, is in favour of the laws.

In West Bengal, farmers and political parties held big rallies at several parts of the poll-bound state to show their strength.

The biggest rallies of Left parties were in East Burdwan, Hooghly, Murshidabad and East Midnapore districts. “More than 600 tractors and two thousand motorcycles participated,” said Amal Haldar, senior peasant’s front leader of the CPIM.

In Madhya Pradesh, farmer bodies claimed that tractor rallies were organised in at least 20 of the state’s 55 districts. Farmers also took out a 15-km long tractor and motorcycle rally in state capital Bhopal.

Jagrut Kisan Sangathan convenor Irfan Jafri said that the Bhopal administration did not allow a tractor rally in urban areas, protestors took out the vehicle parade in the rural areas of Bhopal. In Barwani district, a 16-km bullock-cart parade was carried out.

Rallies were also taken out in Raisen, Shivpuri, Bhind, Morena and Gwalior districts. “Farmers took out peaceful rallies even in Vindhya and Chambal regions,” said Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh leader Subhash Pandey.

In Jharkhand, the All India Kisan Sabha, Left parties, the Congress and RJD took out tractor and motorcycle rallies in different parts of the state.

Farmer leaders also read the preamble of the Constitution and urged the Central government to respect it by withdrawing the three farm laws. Farm leaders said they would continue the protest till January 30.

Farmer protests were also reported from Uttarakhand, Himachal, parts of Odisha, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.

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