NEW DELHI/ CHANDIGARH: Hundreds of farmers entered the national capital on Friday to hold peaceful protest at a north Delhi ground after facing tear gas and water cannons and clashing with security personnel while thousands remained at border points, undecided whether to go to the demonstration site identified by police.
The day witnessed police using teargas shells, water cannons and multi-layer barriers to block the protesters and the farmers pelting stones and breaking barricades in some places in their determination to push through as part of their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march against the Centre’s new farm laws.
Farmer leaders from Punjab and Haryana said the stir has now become a “people’s movement”, drawing support from various sections of society.
Meanwhile, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar appealed to the protesting farmers to end their agitation and said the government is ready to discuss all issues with them.
Asserting that the new farm laws will bring tremendous improvement in the lives of farmers, he said the government was already engaging with various farmers’ organisations and they have been called for discussions on December 3.
Around 600 farmers headed to Sant Nirankari Ground, one of the biggest in the national capital, following several hours of confrontation with the police at different border points with Haryana.
After a meeting between farmer leaders and senior police officers, the Delhi Police allowed the protesters to hold demonstration peacefully at Nirankari Ground, but senior farmer leader Darshan Pal later said they would stay put at border points on Friday night and a decision on whether to go to the identified protest site or not will be taken on Saturday.
At the Tikri border, some groups of farmers were escorted by police personnel around 3 pm amid tight security and taken towards the identified protest site. But those gathered at the Singhu border, one of the main routes used to access the city from Punjab, had not entered the city till late evening.
As more Punjab farmers crossed the state’s border with Haryana, by evening, all police barricades at the border with Punjab and along the highway to Delhi were lifted, allowing traffic to run as before.
In Uttar Pradesh too, farmers staged sit-ins and demonstrations at many places, including Lucknow. In Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Baghpat and Gautam Budh Nagar in western UP, besides Jhansi and Jalaun in Bundelkhand region, protests on various roads resulted in considerable blockades and traffic disruptions.
Earlier in the day, carrying flags and shouting slogans, protesting farmers at the Delhi-Haryana Singhu border pelted stones and broke barricades as they clashed with Delhi Police which used tear gas shells to disperse them. The security personnel baton charged the protesters for a brief time. Around three police officials were also injured.
Angry farmers, who were denied entry into the national capital for their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march against the farm laws, managed to break the first layer of barricading, at the border.
Plumes of smoke were seen as security personnel used multiple rounds of tear gas to disperse the farmers at the Singhu border.
A multi-layer barricading was in place at the Singhu border to prevent farmers from entering the national capital.
At the Tigri border, security personnel used water cannons to disperse farmers trying to gain entry to Delhi.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on Friday denied permission to the Delhi Police to convert the city’s stadiums into temporary jails in view of the protest by farmers against the new farm laws.
While rejecting the police’s request, Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain said every Indian citizen has the constitutional right to protest peacefully for which they cannot be put in jails.
In a letter to the principal home secretary, Jain said the central government should accept the demands of the protesters and added that putting farmers in jails is not the solution.
Meanwhile, Delhi Metro services resumed on all lines on Friday evening after they were disrupted for a few hours at multiple places because of the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march.
“Services normal at all corridors from 5:35 pm onwards,” the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) tweeted, adding that the services will be regular on all lines on Saturday.
Due to protest, vehicles moved bumper-to-bumper on key roads after the Delhi Police closed several border points with Haryana in view of the protest march on Friday.
Punjab farmers, representing over 30 farm bodies, had announced they would go to Delhi through several routes — Lalru, Shambhu, Patiala-Pehowa, Patran-Khanauri, Moonak-Tohana, Ratia-Fatehabad and Talwandi-Sirsa. Tension was escalating at all the border points.
Farmers have assembled near the borders in tractor-trolleys laden with rations and essentials for the march. Authorities in Haryana have imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in several parts of the state to prevent assembly of the protesters.
Source: Press Trust of India