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On Bharat Bandh, farmers appeal for peaceful protests: ‘No one will be forced to close shops’

Bharat Bandh today: The bandh, farm leaders at Singhu border said, will include blockades or chakka jams on national highways between 10 am and 3 pm, while sit-in protests will continue the entire day.

Written by Amil Bhatnagar , Ananya Tiwari | New Delhi | Updated: December 8, 2020 7:47:32 am
Farmers appeal for peaceful protests: ‘No one will be forced to close shops’At Ghazipur border on Monday. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

Farmers have appealed for peaceful and non-violent protests as part of Tuesday’s Bharat bandh, slated a day before another round of talks between heads of farmer unions and the Centre. The bandh, farm leaders at Singhu border said, will include blockades or chakka jams on national highways between 10 am and 3 pm, while sit-in protests will continue the entire day.

“We have to mention with absolute clarity that there will be voluntary closure of shops and businesses and no one will be forced to do so. We do not want any sort of violence. For many days, we have been sitting at the borders peacefully and we want the bandh to reflect that. There are dedicated timings for protests and no emergency services will be halted,” said Dr Darshan Pal, president of the Krantikari Kisan Union (Punjab).

Fresh blockades are expected at Delhi’s borders, apart from Tikri, Singhu, Chilla and Ghazipur, where farmers are already sitting. Fire services, ambulances, medicine delivery and other emergency services will not be affected, farmers said, but dairy, vegetable and fruit delivery will be. Metro services in NCR will function as per usual.

The bandh will see participation from political parties, and unions from states including Punjab, Karnataka, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and UP have extended support. “We thank the politicians for supporting the farmer issue but if they want to protest, they will have to leave their banners behind and protest only under the flag of farmers. The bandh is purely for the farmers and their protest against the farmer bills,” said Dr Pal.

Farm leaders also claimed they have received support from several transport, trader and mandi associations who will be suspending services for the day. Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi will remain shut during the day as banners in support of farmers have come up at the gates. Udyog Vyapar Mandal in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh will also shut shops, farmers said.

Azadpur Mandi chairman Adeel Ahmed Khan said: “Traders will shut shop in support of the bandh tomorrow, and farmers will not come to sell their produce since it is a strike. It will not have much impact on the supply of fruits and vegetables.” Those farmers protesting at Singhu and Tikri borders will not move towards Delhi but will stay where they are.

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A farmer holds a placard at Singhu border during ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest march (PTI)

Market associations say won’t shut

Market associations in the national capital said they will not be participating in Tuesday’s bandh. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) and All India Transport Welfare Association (AITWA) also took a similar stand.

“We are not closing the market tomorrow. We have not faced any shortage of supplies or any issues as such so far. Yes, there is slightly less footfall of customers from Noida and Gurgaon…,” said Ashwani Marwah, general secretary of the Traders Association Lajpat Nagar.

Atul Bhargava, president of the New Delhi Traders’ Association of Connaught Place, said, “We will continue business as usual, and have also informed the authorities. Our businesses have suffered since the pandemic and we do not wish to interrupt it in any manner.”

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Farmers camping at Singhu border (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

Sanjay Bhargava, president, Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, said, “We will remain open. Because of the surge in Covid cases and the agitation, there has been a bigger drop in footfall than was expected post-Diwali. This is unfortunate for us.”

K K Balli, president, traders’ association of the Gandhi Nagar wholesale market, said, “The market shall be open Tuesday. We have winter stock but if the agitation continues, it will affect us. Customers are also not coming to Delhi due to the agitation.”

In a joint statement, CAIT and AITWA said no farmer association had approached them to join the bandh. The farmers, like traders and transporters, are an important part of the national economy and, therefore, immediate steps are needed to resolve their issues, read the statement.

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