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‘Rail roko’ by farmers passes off peacefully

Farmers protest at the Modinagar railway station in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh on February 18, 2021.   | Photo Credit: SANDEEP SAXENA

Protesting farmers sat on railway tracks at hundreds of locations, and stopped some trains during a four-hour ‘rail roko’ agitation on Thursday. The Railways said there was a “negligible” impact on the running of trains across the country.

For a few passengers on trains stopped by the agitation, the ‘rail roko’ involved showering of flower petals and jaggery and distribution of milk by protesting farmers. In other locations, tractors were brought onto the tracks.

 

Farm unions said thousands had participated in the nationwide agitation, including protests at a large number of stations in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Telangana, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Although protesters were detained at several locations, both the unions and the Railways said the protest passed off peacefully, without any incidents of violence.

In Punjab, where farmers blocked rail lines and stations for several weeks last year, the core group of 32 protesting unions laid siege to tracks in at least 40 locations, according to Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union-Dakaunda. “Farmers peacefully sat on a dharna on railway tracks to convey their anguish,” he said.

Women join

The BKU-Ekta Ugrahan, one of the largest farm unions in the State, which is not part of the 32 unions, said its members blocked the tracks at 22 locations, including Bathinda, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala districts. The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, which had refused to lift the earlier blockade of passenger trains even when other unions relented, blocked tracks at over 30 places including Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Kapurthala.

Farmers, supported by khap panchayats, traders and workers unions, blocked rail lines at 44 points across Haryana, with large number of women taking part at Rohtak and Charkhi Dadri districts. Hisar, Sirsa, Jind and Rohtak accounted for more than half the protest sites. In Bahadurgarh, one of the sites of the sit-in agitation for the past two months, farmers blocked railway traffic at five points. Leading the agitation at Patuwas, farmer leader Raju Maan said the farmers were ready to make any sacrifice to get the three farm laws repealed.

In Rajasthan, farmers brought a tractor on the track near the Ajarka station in Alwar district to block the movement of trains.

A large group gathered at the Gandhi Nagar station in Jaipur and climbed on the engine of a goods train. When Railway Protection Force personnel brought them down, they staged a sit-in on the tracks. The Rewari-Sriganganagar special train was cancelled because of the agitation, while the Delhi-Mumbai railway line remained blocked for four hours with farmers occupying the track near the Gudla station in Kota district. The Jaisalmer-Jammu Tawi Intercity Express train was stopped at Rajgarh in Alwar district and at least two other trains were halted at the Sawai Madhopur station.

In Khurja town in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh, the Gomti Express was stopped and farmers showered petals on the driver. “Passengers were offered jaggery and children were treated with milk,” said Rajveer Singh of BKU-Tikait. It was about after one hour that the train was allowed to move towards Delhi. At Modinagar, railway authorities prevented the passage of passenger trains. “Only a goods train passed through and there was no point stopping it,” said Mr. Singh. Farmers sat on tracks and platforms across western Uttar Pradesh, including at Ghaziabad, Meerut, Shamli, Baghpat and Agra.

According to the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella group of unions which issued the protest, the Mumbai-Amritsar Paschim Express was stopped at Panipat, the Bandra-Haridwar special was stopped by farmers at Meerut, and the Utkal Express running from Puri in Odisha to Haridwar in Uttarakhand was stopped at Ghaziabad, because farmers were sitting on the track at Modinagar.

Activists detained

About a hundred activists were detained at Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, while 500 were detained in Telangana, according to the All India Kisan Sabha. It also reported arrests in Bettiah in Bihar, and at Bangarpet in the Kolar district of Karnataka. According to the AIKS, protests took place at 77 stations in West Bengal, 65 stations in Jharkhand, 55 stations in Telangana, 30 stations in Odisha, 23 stations in Andhra Pradesh and 21 stations in Rajasthan.

There was “negligible” or “minimal” impact on running of the trains, according to the Indian Railways.

On the bomb blast at the railway station in Nimtita, West Bengal, in which about 25 people have been injured, railway sources said, “This incident is prima facie a result of political rivalry between Trinamool and CPI, and may have some links to the internal feud among the TMC cadres.”

(Inputs from Vikas Vasudeva in Chandigarh, Ashok Kumar in Gurugram, Mohammed Iqbal in Jaipur, Anuj Kumar in Ghaziabad, and Yuthika Bhargava and Priscilla Jebaraj in New Delhi)

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 6:25:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/farmers-rail-roko-passes-off-peacefully/article33872154.ece

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