CHANDIGARH – Braving chilly night under the open skies, thousands of protesting farmers from Punjab and Haryana gathered in Panipat town, resumed their onward journey on tractor-trailers on Friday towards the national capital to lodge their protest over the Centre’s new agriculture laws.
Simultaneously, hundreds of thousands of farmers belonging to the Bharati Kisan Union Ekta-Ugrahan and the Kisan Sangharsh Committee have announced to start their journey from Sangrur district and Jandiala in Amritsar district, respectively, towards Delhi via Haryana.
A day earlier they had positioned themselves in their respective areas.
“This morning (Friday) we managed to break a three-four layer police barricade between Panipat and Sonipat despite the use of water cannons by the Haryana Police,” protester Gurdev Singh said. He said on Thursday they broke four to five barricades after entering Haryana.
Up in arms, farmers on Thursday braved tear gas shells and water cannons to break through police barricades at several places first on the Punjab-Haryana border and then within Haryana.
Marching through Haryana where they were joined by an equal number of local farmers.
Meanwhile, Punjab legislators Parminder Dhindsa, Sukhpal Khera and Raja Warring were taken into preventive custody by the police.
Several protesters and policemen were injured as farmers broke barricades and threw them down from a bridge ahead of the Punjab-Haryana border in Shambhu near Haryana’s Ambala on Thursday.
A huge contingent of police comprising the Rapid Action Force had been deployed at all entry points in Haryana, while residents of several towns located along the Punjab-Haryana border faced a harrowing time due to the heavy deployment of the security forces and snapping of the bus services in the past 24 hours.
Despite the use of water cannons and tear gas, the protesting farmers, comprising men and women — both young and old — and school and college students riding tractor-trailers, cars and motorcycles, managed to enter Haryana from Shambhu.
Angry farmers threw stones at security forces deployed to control the crowd at the Shambhu border.
As per the police estimates, around 3,00,000 farmers from both states are set to reach Delhi.
The farmers affiliated to 33 organisations are part of the United Farmers Front, an all-India body of over 470 farmers’ unions that will participate in the indefinite protest in the national capital.
Appealing to the agitating farmers, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said: “Will leave politics if there’s trouble on MSP (minimum support price).”
He also blamed his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh for “inciting the farmers”.
Reacting to his accusations, Amarinder Singh replied on Twitter: “Shocked at your response. It’s the farmers who’ve to be convinced on MSP, not me. You should’ve tried to talk to them before their ‘Dilli Chalo’. And if you think I’m inciting farmers then why are Haryana farmers also marching to Delhi?”
Meanwhile, condemning the use of water cannon and tear gas, former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal said: “Today is Punjab’s 26/11. We are witnessing the end of the right to democratic protest. The Akali Dal condemns the Haryana government the Centre for choosing to repress the peaceful farmer movement.”
He said the battle for the rights of the Punjab farmers cannot be throttled by using water cannons against them.
Supporting the protest by farmers, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the peaceful demonstration was a constitutional right of the farmers.
The Delhi Police has already asked the farmers not to enter Delhi as they don’t have permission to protest in the city.
Farmers protesting against the farm laws have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporate entities.
Delhi Police resorted to firing tear gas shells to disperse protesting farmers as they reached Singhu border (Haryana-Delhi border) on Friday.
Accorrding to sources, the Delhi Police has also asked for nine stadiums from the Aam Aadmi Party government to detain the farmers in case they manage to enter the national capital.
Police has tried to negotiate with a delegation of farmers. They have made it clear that the farmers won’t be allowed to cross the border and enter Delhi. The protesters though appear adamant.
There are 32 unions of farmers among others who are taking various routes, Singhu, Tikri and all peripheral towns of the capital are witnessing massive protests.
“We are not here to fight or cause any trouble. We just want to put forward our point peacefully, the police though seems in a confrontation mood,” said a protesting farmer.
Heavy police force including para military has been deployed at Singhu border, Tikri border, Delhi-Gurugram border, and Faridabad border.
At Singhu border the Delhi Police has put barbed wires and Boulder barricades to stop farmers trolleys heading towards the capital city.
Thay have used innovative tactics by putting up trolleys filled with mud and sand to break their advance. The farmers are protesting three Farm Laws, including one on MSP.
Drones have also been deployed to check the farmers march from a distance. Senior police officers are themselves monitoring the border areas.
At the Mundka-Delhi-Haryana border, confrontation was seen between farmers and Police where the farmers tried to penetrate the security ring of the paramilitary and Police.
The Delhi Police has already made it clear that strict action as per law would be taken against the farmers if they try to enter Delhi.
Some 500 farmers’ organisations from six states — Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Kerala have been planning this march for two months to press the central government to repeal the recently enacted farm laws.