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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Delhi Police try to limit tractor rally to periphery, farmers firm: Won’t disrupt R-Day parade

As part of their protest, on January 26, thousands of farmers from Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders are set to take out a tractor march on Delhi’s Outer Ring Road.

Written by Jignasa Sinha , Raakhi Jagga , Amil Bhatnagar | Ludhiana, New Delhi |
Updated: January 20, 2021 7:30:05 am
At the Singhu border, Tuesday. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)

Ahead of the proposed tractor rally on Republic Day, senior Delhi Police officers met farm leaders at Singhu border on Tuesday to discuss the route and security arrangements.

As part of their protest, on January 26, thousands of farmers from Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders are set to take out a tractor march on Delhi’s Outer Ring Road. Police sources said they tried to convince farmers to hold their protest on KMP Expressway and not march towards Kisan Ghat or take other routes, but couldn’t reach an agreement. “We told them to hold a protest at the borders but they want to march towards Kisan Ghat. Some farmers will take tractors towards the Outer Ring Road and protest there. We think the Western Periphery Road will be blocked due to this,” said a senior officer.

A member of the Bharatiya Kisan Union said, “Police are insisting we take the KMP route but farmers said they won’t.”

Rajinder Singh Deep Singh Wala, general secretary of the Kirti Kisan Union who was at the meeting with police, said: “A team of officials met 7-8 union members on Monday evening and another on Tuesday morning. They asked us to hold the parade on the outskirts of Delhi, but we told them we want to do it on Outer Ring Road. We will be chalking out a detailed plan and it will be peaceful. They (police) will have yet another meeting with us at 11 am Wednesday

at Vigyan Bhawan, an hour before the meeting with Union Ministers. We will issue an appeal to Delhi residents to keep Ring Road free for us for a day; I’m sure they will listen to our demand. We are not going to disrupt the parade at Rajpath.”

Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU Dakaunda who was also at the meeting, said: “Our plan for Republic Day is on the Outer Ring Road; we won’t cause a hassle to anyone.” Buta Singh Burjgill, president of BKU Dakaunda, said they will give a written plan to the union ministers on January 20.

“We understand the security issues and don’t want to disturb the public. We are in talks with the Supreme Court and police. We told them the march can’t be postponed or cancelled,” said Harjinder Dhaliwal, a farmer at Tikri border, who was also part of the talks.

Farmers sit in protest against the new Farm Bill, at Tikri Border

Security beefed up

At Tikri border, Delhi and Haryana Police have cordoned off nearby areas with two-three layers of non-permanent barricades and road blocks. A senior police officer from the Outer district said, “We are allowing them to march from Tikri to Singhu. But nearby borders like Delhi-Jaipur road will be blocked. We can’t allow this… We are discussing further terms with the leaders.”

At present, more than 17,000 farmers are camping at Tikri. Police have deployed 15 companies of local police and Rapid Action Force personnel, and 5-6 teams around the border to patrol the streets.

As part of security measures for Republic Day, combing drives and door-to-door verification are underway at residential areas, markets and hotels near the borders. Personnel will also conduct vehicle checks before the march.

At Singhu border, more than 30,000 farmers from Punjab and Haryana have joined the protest. A senior officer from the Western Range said: “We have 17 outside companies at the border along with local police from Rohini and Northwest districts. We are planning to call 2,000-3,000 more personnel to help with security arrangements.”

At Ghazipur border, over 8,000 farmers from UP, Punjab and Haryana are protesting. DCP (East) Deepak Yadav said, “We have nearly 12-15 outside companies at the border now, along with 160 personnel from the local district. Checking has been intensified.”

A mural at Singhu border in New Delhi, where farmers are protesting against the new farm bills, on Tuesday, January 12, 2020. (Express Photo: Abhinav Saha)

The plan

According to farmers, the Republic Day plan includes a parade “similar to the official function at Rajpath”. At several practice drills in Punjab and Haryana, tractor marches included tableaus of farm laws and agriculture. Banners and boards will be placed on tractors to raise awareness about the laws and the protest, farmers said. “The idea is to include issues of farmers in the celebrations. It will be a march, like the one at Rajpath. Farmers from different states will display their thoughts on the bill and highlight their plight,” said a member of the organising committee.

Farmers are expecting representation of at least 20 states in their parade. They had earlier said the national flag will be put atop vehicles and no flags of any political party will be allowed.

Many protesters are expected to join the rally from Delhi and take out marches on foot. Those travelling from Punjab are likely to begin the rally from Singhu and Tikri, while many others will join the procession midway. Some groups will be taking out marches on horseback as well, farmers said.

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