Dilli Chalo | Peaceful protests nationwide mark farmers’ Bharat Bandh

Protesting farmers block the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh highway at Ghazipur during Bharat Bandh against new farm laws on December 8, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

The Bharat Bandh called by the farmers’ unions protesting against the recent farm sector laws affected normal life on Tuesday in large parts of northern India, especially Punjab, as well as Odisha, and the southern States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Farm unions under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha claimed that more than 50 lakh people participated in the Bharat Bandh call at 20,000 locations across the country. At least 25 political parties supported the bandh, along with trade unions, retail and transport associations and many professional bodies.

Pre-emptive arrests

Large numbers of protestors and leaders, including several legislators, were detained during the day, both pre-emptively and during the agitation. Major highways around Delhi, and in parts of northern India were blocked in a chakka jam until 3 p.m.

Farm unions have been agitating for more than two months, demanding the repeal of three contentious Central laws meant to reform agricultural marketing. They fear the laws will affect government procurement at minimum support prices and benefit large corporates to the detriment of the small farmer.

At a press conference on the Singhu border, farmer leaders claimed success.

“It is very clear today that the struggle is not just restricted to Punjab, and not just restricted to farmers. This has become a struggle across all sections of society in India. The government of India now knows it doesn’t have a way out,” said Gurnam Singh Chaduni, leader of one of the biggest factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union in Haryana.

Shops and businesses were closed in many parts of Punjab. Farmers, trade bodies and government employee associations held sit-ins or dharnas on key roads, including national and State highways, as well as near railway tracks, severely disrupting traffic. Public transport, including buses and taxis were hardly seen plying on the roads. Fuel stations were also closed. Supply of essential commodities was disrupted at a few places during the shutdown, which remained peaceful. In Chandigarh, however, most markets remained open .

In western Uttar Pradesh, there was a rural-urban divide, with village mandis staying shut, even while city markets functioned. At Aligarh, hundreds of farmers blocked the road leading to the Yamuna Expressway using tractors and trolleys.

Farmers also jammed the Eastern Peripheral Highway at Greater Noida, and the NH9 at Ghaziabad. U.P. Police put many local political leaders under house arrest, citing Section 144 and the Epidemic Act, including the Bahujan Samaj Party Lok Sabha MP Haji Fazlurehman and Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad.

CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member K.K. Ragesh was detained along with about a hundred workers, while protesting at the Bilaspur Chowk in Gurugram off NH-48.

In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was “almost under house arrest”, a claim denied by the Delhi Police. AAP workers were also detained during a protest at ITO.

Although there were agitations at the capital’s borders, most markets and public transport continued to function normally within the city.

In Andhra Pradesh, the ruling YSRCP decided to support the bandh at the last minute, so offices were shut till 1 p.m., and public transport, shops and businesses remained closed. In Telangana as well, the bandh was complete, with all political parties, including the ruling TRS supporting the farmers’ cause.

In the Cauvery Delta region of central Tamil Nadu, there were at least eight road roko protests. More than 400 workers of the DMK and the Left parties were detained in Tiruchi district.

There was a total response to the bandh call in Odisha, with roads deserted and government offices remaining closed, although the ruling BJD has not officially backed the protest. At Mastercanteen Square, a central Bhubaneswar location, hundreds of farmers and members of political parties such as Congress, CPI (M), CPI and Samajwadi Party raised slogans against the NDA government and the new farm laws.

Left supporters blocked railways and roads in West Bengal, leading to 26 trains being cancelled in the Sealdah section. Commercial vehicles were off the roads and most shops and business establishments were closed in Assam.

In Gujarat, 200 persons were detained pre-emptively on Monday night, according to farm leaders. In Maharashtra, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna members stopped the Chennai-Ahmedabad Navjeevan Express at Malkapur station while protesting against the farm laws.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 11:00:43 PM |

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