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Police stop farmers’ march to Delhi at Haryana, U.P. borders

Farmers stop a police vehicle in Ambala on November 26, 2020 during their march to Delhi. Police fired tear gas and water cannons when they clashed with several thousand farmers marching to Delhi to protest against recently passed agricultural laws.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Tens of thousands of farmers are planning to storm Delhi on Friday to protest against the Centre’s new farm reform laws. With the Delhi Police moving to prevent their entry, the alliance of farmers groups demanding the repeal of the laws has called for an “indefinite siege” of the capital

Convoys of farmers from Punjab surged across Haryana throughout the day, having broken through or bypassed police barriers at multiple locations. At other points in Haryana as well as along the Uttar Pradesh border, however, farmers were blocked from entry, while leaders were detained or arrested. Within Delhi, two protests were broken up by the police, and hundreds of protestors detained.

 

Although Delhi’s borders have not been sealed, barricades and pickets have been activated to prevent entry by the marching farmers. Five sand-laden trucks have been stationed at the Singhu border point to stop tractors, said senior Delhi Police officials, adding that drones have also been deployed for security purposes. 

“It is expected that more than 50,000 farmers will be standing at the Delhi border by today evening. The numbers are expected to swell through the night as thousands of tractors and trolleys are carrying farmers, women and children from interior areas of Punjab,” said a statement from the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an alliance of farmers groups.

The Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, and various factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union are leading the protest under the SKM banner. However, in a new development late on Thursday night, the Tikait faction of the BKU decided to launch its own agitation, blocking national highways and calling for the repeal of the farm reform laws. The group, which has a strong presence in western U.P., had not responded to the SKM call for protest so far. Protest actions and strikes were also held in eastern and southern States, with trade unions joining in the agitation.

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At the Punjab-Haryana border in Shambu, Haryana police resorted to use of tear gas and water cannons to disperse agitating farmers, who toppled and dismantled barricades. Farmer convoys were seen cutting across fields to bypass barriers, travelling by foot, tractor-trolleys, cars and two wheelers.

“The way we are being stopped from reaching Delhi, it seems Punjab and its people are not citizens of India. Barbed wires have been put at many places at Haryana border, which gives an impression as if it’s ‘Attari-Wagah’ border,” said Nirbhay Singh, senior leader of the Kirti Kisan Union.

More than 10,000 farmers from Punjab managed to cross over to Haryana at two border points in Fatehabad as well as the crossings at Kaithal and Ambala, Haryana Director General of Police Manoj Yadava told The Hindu. He added that the police are trying to slow down and physically hold back farmers, without the use of force beyond water cannons and tear gas, but alleged that the protesters had damaged police vehicles.

 

Swaraj India national president Yogendra Yadav, who was taken into preventive custody at Gurugram’s Rathiwas village along with a dozen protestors around noon, said it was unfortunate that farmers were being deprived of their basic constitutional right to go to the national capital for protest on Constitution Day.

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Haryana Kisan Sabha vice-president Inderjit Singh was also detained along with 120 protesters on the Delhi-Hisar Expressway, but later let off. 

On the Agra-bound highway at the Rajasthan-U.P. border, a group of about 400 protestors led by the Narmada Bachao Andolan’s Medha Patkar started a road roko protest after being detained by U.P. Police. Farmers of the Terai Kisan Sangathan were also blocked on the Nainital-Delhi highway at the Uttarakhand-U.P. border. At Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, more than 2000 farmers have been stopped.

Within the capital, police said they had detained 70 protestors from rallies at Majnu ka Tila and Jantar Mantar, and were holding them at a temporary jail in Hari Nagar. However, the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh alone claimed that 720 farmers had been arrested or detained in Delhi since last night.

Watch | Medha Patkar and farm leaders stopped by UP Police

“Around midnight last night, Delhi Police entered the Majnu ka Tila gurudwara and arrested ten farmers, said RKMS spokesperson Abhimanyu Kohar. Delhi Police denied the arrests, terming it a false allegation.

Mr. Kohar added that the group’s leader Shivkumar "Kakkaji" Sharma was arrested while attempting to march from Majnu ka Tila to Rajghat and is being held at a north Delhi police station. 

“About 100 farmers from Haryana were detained and taken away by buses from Kerala Bhawan near the Jantar Mantar protest site this morning,” said AIKSCC leader Kavitha Kuruganti. All India Kisan Sabha leader Krishna Prasad was also detained.

 

Delhi police dispersed a crowd of Leftist trade union workers and student activists who had gathered at the Jantar Mantar and arrested about 25 activists.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar issued an appeal to farmers groups to choose the path of dialogue, noting that Punjab unions have been invited for talks on December 3. “I want to appeal to our farmer brothers to not agitate. We're ready to talk about issues and resolve differences. I'm sure that our dialogue will have a positive result,” Mr Tomar said on the sidelines of an official event, according to news agency ANI.

(with inputs from Ashok Kumar in Haryana, Vikas Vasudeva in Punjab, and Saurabh Trivedi and Priscilla Jebaraj in Delhi) 

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 11:29:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/medha-patkar-and-farm-leaders-stopped-by-up-police-at-rajasthan-border/article33182041.ece

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