January 29, 2021 5:16:39 am
Police presence has been heightened at the Singhu border since Wednesday, with deployment doubled and more barricades in place. More than five companies of police and security personnel held a joint training exercise on Thursday while senior officers visited the site and spoke to personnel.
This comes in the wake of violence during the tractor march in the capital on Republic Day.
Said a senior police officer: “Farmers attacked our personnel two days ago. Some of the agitated protesters are still trying to protest near the barricades. We have to be ready. This is our law and order arrangement for this area. Hundreds of police personnel come here every day, we want them to be safe.”
In the wake of FIRs and lookout notices being issued against union leaders and protesters, farmers said they have been receiving calls from anxious families to return home. On Thursday, some protesters were seen packing up and leaving.
Ranbir (70), a farmer from Punjab’s Dahisara village, was among those who left. “I don’t feel safe here anymore. The leaders keep telling us about the violence and that police will arrest the actor (Deep Sidhu) and other goons but I don’t trust them. I have a 20-acre farm where I grow wheat. I am going back to take care of it. My son and wife told me that some of the protesters here will be arrested soon. I didn’t even participate in the parade,” he said.
Leaders of the Kranti Kisan Union said that while many farmers have left, they had only come for the Republic Day tractor march and will be back soon.
To boost the morale of protesters, farm leaders and young protesters from Palwal and other areas of Haryana carried out a ‘Sadbhavana tractor rally’. More than 100 tractors joined in as farmers shouted, “We are with Punjab farmers, we won’t leave”, while they drove 30 km from the border till Sonepat and back.
Volunteers from the Bharatiya Kisan Union said the rally was conducted to show “unity” among farmers from different states and to “fight back” against false allegations and accusations levelled by Delhi Police and government officials who are trying to “disrupt the movement”.
Leaders from the Kirti Kisan Union, BKU (Ekta, Qadian, Lokhawal) attended the rally. Darshan Pal Singh and Balbir Singh Rajewal — who have been sent notices by police — also spoke on stage after the event.
Watching the rally were several elderly farmers who decided to stay. Reshmi Singh (60) and his friend Gurjit from Nawanshahr in Punjab said they don’t want to leave the protest but said their families want them to.
“My wife wants me to come back. She fears the police will arrest me and won’t release me. To be honest, the situation here is sensitive and we fear police presence, but we have been here for two months. I didn’t go to ITO, I marched till Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar. Why would anyone arrest me? My children also called me today. They want me to come back. My brother has already left but I won’t. The movement is still strong and we won’t leave,” he said.
Power cuts and poor internet connectivity have also become troublesome for farmers.
Boota Singh (50), a farmer from Jalandhar, said, “My wife is worried because she heard police are arresting farmers. I am not scared of being arrested, but what if the police attack us? Heavy police deployment here is unnecessary. Also, last night, there was a power cut for hours and there’s hardly any internet connection here. My wife sent me a message last night but I received it today. My daughter asked me to come back. I might go back for a day but I can’t leave this movement. I am representing my family here. We don’t have big farms and need money to sell our rice produce.”
Near the stage, state secretary of the Kirti Kisan Union Jatinder Singh Sheena said he isn’t scared of the FIRs registered against members of his organisation. “We took out a peaceful rally. Police can do whatever they want. On that day, I saw them being easy on those who hijacked our march. They were rude to us and didn’t let us march till KMP Expressway. I won’t leave Singhu till the laws are repealed. Police can call us terrorists and anti-nationals, we will show them our parade. Our boys are carrying Indian flags… we are all farmers from India.”
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