In a dramatic turn of events, the number of farmers swelled again at the Ghazipur border after midnight on Friday, with hundreds reaching the protest site from western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
Many of them reached the site after watching an emotional outburst from BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, during which he blamed the BJP for trying to vitiate the atmosphere at the site by sending Loni MLA Nand Kishore Gurjar and his acolytes.
Also read: How the farmers’ protest lost its way
“We are ready to face the administration but not ready to be caned by the BJP people,” Mr. Tikait said. It apparently created ripples in western U.P., particularly Muzaffarnagar, the native district of Tikait. His elder brother and president of BKU Naresh Tikait quickly called an emergency meeting and appealed to supporters to reach Ghazipur in large numbers. A mahapanchayat is scheduled to be held in Muzaffarnagar later in the day.
Administration sources denied the role of BJP leaders. “Mr. Tikait agreed to court arrest on Wednesday evening but when the ADM City went to the stage with police personnel to serve the eviction notice, he changed tack and came up with the BJP angle,’ said a senior official, requesting anonymity.
In fact, Mr. Tikait’s decision to stay put despite a massive presence of police and paramilitary forces in riot gear changed the course of events, with the administration taking a step back.
Till Wednesday, most of the farmers on the Delhi-Meerut Expressway were Sikh farmers from Uttarakhand and the terai region of Uttar Pradesh. Scores of farmers from western Uttar Pradesh were holding the fort beneath the flyover.
With farmer leader V.M. Singh leaving on Wednesday with his supporters, the numbers had come down. On Thursday, when the electricity and water supply were snapped and there was the possibility of a police crackdown, many tents and langars folded up. Although they did not say it openly, the elders were fearing a backlash after the Red Fort incident.
However, Mr. Tikait’s appeal to farmers from western U.P., particularly the closely knit Jat Khaps, to join the protest in large numbers seemed to work. When the protests started, he used to call the space near the flyover as Dehradun and the one over the flyover as Mussoorie. Finally, he has occupied Mussoorie, but still a lot depends on how the villages of Muzaffarnagar and Meerut respond to his emotional appeal.
The Delhi government has offered support. Jayant Chaudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal also reached the spot and power and water supply have been restored.
Mr. Chaudhary said the emotional outburst of Mr. Tikait made every farmer teary-eyed. “I have come here as a common citizen but I must make it clear that ours is a party of farmers. The community that my family and grandfather Chaudhary Charan Singh worked for is in danger,” he told reporters.
He said emotions kept a man going and when Mr. Tikait expressed his emotions, it hurt many people. “Protests are run by the feelings of the masses and people’s emotions are with farmers.”
On the overnight turnaround at the protest site, Mr. Chaudhary said, “It was just a pause, not a full stop.”
He is expected to join the mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar later in the day.
BSP MP boycotts President's address
Meanwhile, showing solidarity with farmers’ protest, Haji Fazlur Rehman, the Bahujan Samaj Party MP from Saharanpur, boycotted the joint address of the Parliament by President Ramnath Kovind and returned to his constituency.
In a tweet in Hindi, he said, “In protest against the atrocity committed against farmers, he is boycotting the President’s address. I didn’t go to the Parliament House, instead, I am going to Saharanpur.”