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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Farmers’ protest: After push and pull, wait and watch

On the third day of the protest, apart from Singhu and Tikri where farmers from Punjab have gathered, farmers also arrived at Ghazipur border with Uttar Pradesh. Affiliated with the Bharatiya Kisan Union, most hailed from Western UP villages.

Written by Amil Bhatnagar , Sukrita Baruah , Jignasa Sinha , Sukhbir Siwach | Chandigarh, New Delhi | November 29, 2020 12:57:56 am
At Ghazipur, Saturday. Farmers from Western UP also joined the protests. (Express Photo: Gajendra Yadav)

Farmers stayed put at the gates of the capital Saturday, choosing to wait instead of pushing forward, unlike a day earlier when they had been involved in clashes with police personnel trying to stop their entry into Delhi. Despite police eventually granting permission to the farmers to move their protest to Burari’s Nirankari ground, most remained averse to the idea. While some said they would wait for their numbers to swell and leaders to join them before moving forward, others wanted permission to protest at the higher profile Ramlila Ground or Jantar Mantar.

On the third day of the protest, apart from Singhu and Tikri where farmers from Punjab have gathered, farmers also arrived at Ghazipur border with Uttar Pradesh. Affiliated with the Bharatiya Kisan Union, most hailed from Western UP villages.

At 3:20 pm, this number increased to a few hundred with the arrival of tractors and cars. Even as the first few lines of tractors broke through barricades, the gathering eventually decided to sit under the Ghazipur flyover.

Many said their aim was to assemble at Jantar Mantar.

“Farmers of this country are the annadata. What has been happening for the last two days is brutality by the government. We have gathered in solidarity with them and our destination is Jantar Mantar,” said Alok Singh, who had come from Amroha.

The leader of this group of farmers, Rakesh Tikait, said they would remain at Ghazipur border “until further developments”.

At Singhu, which saw lathi charge, water cannons and tear gas shelling on Friday, Saturday was a sharp contrast.

Among the protesters, who numbered more than 4,000, were some from as far as Wagah and Atari borders, who said it took them three days to reach the capital’s doorstep. They said they had supplies to last them months.

Said 72-year-old retired Armyman Balkar Singh from a border village in Tarn Tarn: “We will stay till we are heard. Be it Armymen, farmers or any other profession, this government has gone after everyone.”

Unlike on Friday when police and farmers came face to face, Saturday saw the protest shifting further away from police barricades — a barbed wire was placed on the road by farmers themselves to demarcate a protesting area. Five-six men managed the passage of people to prevent anyone from moving towards the police so things remained peaceful.

Around 5 km away, at Nirankari ground, just 200 farmers had gathered until Saturday afternoon. “If the farmers are within Delhi jurisdiction, we will make arrangements for them and ensure facilities are provided. At Nirankari ground, toilets have been readied and arrangements for food are being made. The central government should not take this on their ego,” said AAP MLA Raghav Chadha, who visited the ground Saturday.

At the Tikri border area too, farmers chose not to move forward, unhappy with the protest location offered to them.

Said Nasib Singh (66), a farmer from Punjab, “We know there are a lot of us but we didn’t come here to be treated like animals. Police misbehaved with us and tried to shift us to Burari. We requested police to take us to Jantar Mantar or Ramlila Maidan but they refused and barricaded the area again.” More than 300 trucks and tractors remained parked on the Haryana side of the border as farmers waited for more to join them.

Said a senior police officer, “We are ready to open barricades and escort them to Nirankari. They don’t wish to go and have decided to protest here till their leaders come and guide them. Yesterday, they removed the barricades and roadblocks and also pelted stones at us. Now, they are not doing any such thing.”

During the day, some farmers rested in their trucks while others shouted slogans against the farm laws and the Centre. A group of farmers also helped commuters cross the border by removing roadblocks.

“There are a lot of people who have to go for work or reach home. We have removed two-three roadblocks and are helping people cross the border,” said Manpreet, a farmer from Moga.

Meanwhile, Haryana Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala’s Jananayak Janata Party (JJP) Saturday urged the Centre to hold talks with farmers immediately instead of waiting until December 3.

“Not December 3 but the talks should be held today (Saturday) itself by calling all the farmer organisations and their doubts should be cleared. And all the problems of the farmers should be resolved,” said Digvijay Chautala, younger brother of Dushyant and a senior JJP leader.

“The episode we saw during the past two days through TV channels has caused hurt in the heart of almost every citizen of Hindustan,” he said. “For the past two days, the farmers especially from Haryana and Punjab are marching towards Delhi. By coming on the roads, thousands-lakhs of farmers are presenting their demands before the government. There’s intense cold in the evening. There should not be further delay in the talks as you have shown positivity for talks so farmers don’t face difficulties.”

“This government is sympathetic to the farmers. That’s why I hope from the Union Agriculture Minister, the central government and Modi ji that the central government will resolve this entire matter very soon,” Digvijay said.

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