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Day after violence, farmers take matters into their own hands: ‘Can’t rely on police anymore’

A group of 200 men had got past three layers of security barricades on Friday, claimed that the farmers’ agitation had affected their livelihood, and damaged tents and shelters while clashing with farm protesters.

Written by Amil Bhatnagar , Aranya Shankar | New Delhi |
Updated: January 31, 2021 11:57:33 am
Day after violence, farmers take matters into their own hands: ‘Can’t rely on police anymore’Volunteers are manning entry and exit points to the protest site. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

In the aftermath of violence at Singhu border, farmers have stepped up “internal security” — from increased vigils to checkpoints — to prevent any untoward incident and ensure “political agents” do not get a chance to incite violence again.

A group of 200 men had got past three layers of security barricades on Friday, claimed that the farmers’ agitation had affected their livelihood, and damaged tents and shelters while clashing with farm protesters. Farmers alleged that the crowd had gathered at the behest of the BJP.

Said Rupinder Singh, president, Naujawan Bharat Sabha, “We have created a security room near the main stage, 10 people are present there at all times. We are also monitoring the situation on the ground through volunteers. Fewer people are being allowed near the stage after increased checks. Youth wings of unions have been told to guard their trolleys and remain on standby in case there is a situation to control. We will not let BJP and RSS break our protest since it was them who sent people to attack us.”

On Saturday, most volunteers were seen walking around with large wooden and bamboo sticks. According to farmers, volunteers working in two shifts, between 8 am and 8 pm, are stationed at key entry-exit points to guard it — at least five stand at the main entry point of the protest to ensure filtered movement. While the stage committee manages the speeches, an extra team of 25 persons maintain vigil nearby. Another trolley next to the main stage has 10-15 volunteers who can be called for assistance round the clock. Further within the protest site, security teams have set up three checkpoints along the Kundli stretch — at the Khalsa Aid camp, a KFC outlet and TDI mall — where volunteers keep watch on entry points. A message has been sent across to protesters to immediately alert volunteers in the event of a “threat”.

“There are at least 1,500 people keeping a close watch on the protest, 24×7. We have been peaceful since day one, yet so many people managed to enter the site. Now the onus is on us to protect ourselves…,” said Rupinder.

Around 4.30 pm, as a rumour spread that more people had collected at the site, scores of farmers rushed towards the barricades holding lathis in a matter of minutes. Amarjeet Singh from Moga district in Punjab said the heightened vigilance was necessary after Friday’s incident: “Volunteers and some others are doing pehra (rounds) of Singhu to make sure no miscreants have got in. What happened yesterday has made our belief strong that there’s a conspiracy to break our movement.”

Behind the extra security is farmers’ distrust of police forces as well. “Yesterday, police stood and watched what happened. We can’t rely on them and their barricades. So we decided to take this step of doing rounds. However, it has been made clear to everyone not to fall prey to rumour mongering, and not act unless it is in self-defence. We don’t want our protest to be painted as violent,” said Surinder Singh from Haryana’s Ambala, who has been at the protest since the beginning. Jwarmal from Haryana’s Kaithal said, “We just want to keep our protest site secure; we don’t want any violence. BJP and RSS workers are infiltrating and provoking people. Our constant rounds are enough to maintain order.”

From the stage, BKU leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni also sent out a “warning” to the government about Friday’s attack.

“I want to warn this government that they should leave this gundagardi (hooliganism). An FIR should be filed against those who are coming here and doing danga (riots),” he said.

Addressing the farmers, he said there was no going back now even if there is a crackdown. “If the police crack down on us, whether it’s night or morning, we won’t leave, we will die here (praan tyaag dene hain),” he said, reiterating that farmers should continue to keep the protest peaceful.

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