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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Farmers-govt standoff: Getting into protest sites now tough as nails

Since the beginning of the farmers’ agitation at Tikri, protesters have been on the Haryana side of the border, separated from Delhi by several layers of metal barricades.

Written by Sukrita Baruah , Amil Bhatnagar , Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
Updated: February 2, 2021 12:20:17 pm
Singhu border, Delhi farmers protest, farmers protest delhi police, singhu border area farmers protest, Police barricades at Singhu, India news, indian express newsThe iron nails were embedded on the road under instructions of the Delhi Police, carried out under the supervision of Mundka police station.

Monday morning saw an overnight addition to Delhi’s border with Haryana at Tikri as more than 2,000 iron nails were embedded in rows across the breadth of Rohtak Road on the Delhi side of the border, positioned to puncture the tyres of vehicles coming in from the Haryana side.

Since the beginning of the farmers’ agitation at Tikri, protesters have been on the Haryana side of the border, separated from Delhi by several layers of metal barricades. Since the violent events of January 26 and its tense aftermath, however, the Delhi side of the border has become increasingly fortified.

farmers protest, farmers protest delhi border, tikri border, singhu border farmers protest, ghazipur farmers protest, police security, delhi city news, indian express news From steel coils to cement barriers, Singhu and Ghazipur protest sites were also heavily fortified by police.

As of Monday, there were several layers of security — two heavy layers of metal barricading; a layer of large stone boulders; followed by the layer of nails, and a layer of concrete barricades. A few metres ahead of that was another layer of stone boulders, followed by yet another layer of concrete barricades after a few metres.

The iron nails were embedded on the road under instructions of the Delhi Police, carried out under the supervision of Mundka police station. Police personnel and farmers said the work of embedding the nails began after 9 pm on Sunday night and went on through the night till around 4 am on Monday.

farmers protest, farmers protest delhi border, tikri border, singhu border farmers protest, ghazipur farmers protest, police security, delhi city news, indian express news Work was carried out by labourers from nearby construction sites,” said an inspector from Mundka police station.

A senior officer said this is the first time such a measure has been taken.

There were two kinds of nails driven into Rohtak Road on Monday — larger ones, around half a foot long, of which there were around 350 in a row. These were surrounded by smaller nails, the length of an adult index finger, five times more in number than the larger ones. “These nails are not something we normally have at police stations. We have our weapons, but this is something completely different. The nails were sourced from factories in this industrial area.

Work was carried out by labourers from nearby construction sites,” said an inspector from Mundka police station.

farmers protest, farmers protest delhi border, tikri border, singhu border farmers protest, ghazipur farmers protest, police security, delhi city news, indian express news Police personnel and farmers said the work of embedding the nails began after 9 pm on Sunday night and went on through the night till around 4 am on Monday.

Another police personnel at the spot explained how they were attached to the road: “One strip of the road was drilled and dug through. The nails were hammered into wooden frames and these were placed in the dug road, in an angle to face incoming vehicles to puncture their tires. After that, cement was poured on them to hold them in place.”

On Monday, from time to time, constables filled buckets with water to pour over the drying cement to ensure it did not crack. Work was underway to dig through another strip of the road but was halted after the machine stopped working. More wooden frames with nails hammered lay by the side.

“I call what they’ve created here a ‘China wall’. Are they so scared of farmers? We are not going anywhere, we will be here with discipline, unity and peace because that’s our strength… My biggest concern is they have not left any room for an ambulance to pass through,” said Sudesh Goyat, a protester at the site.

At Ghazipur, Singhu

From steel coils to cement barriers, Singhu and Ghazipur protest sites were also heavily fortified by police as more and more people continued to join the stir. Farmers claimed the “war-like” preparations were an attempt to scare protesters away and turn locals against them. A similar set of nails like at Tikri were also installed at Ghazipur border on Monday evening.

farmers protest, farmers protest delhi border, tikri border, singhu border farmers protest, ghazipur farmers protest, police security, delhi city news, indian express news A senior officer said this is the first time such a measure has been taken.

At the Ghazipur border, National Highway 24 was blocked from Sarai Kale Khan. Police personnel, making up the first layer of security, occupied a nearly 100-metre stretch of the highway. DTC buses, used to ferry security forces to and from the site, were parked along the lane. Beyond the buses, a row of steel barricades were placed on either side of the road. Ten metres away, dozens more security personnel stood in formation. In front of them was another layer of barricades with steel coils, wound end to end from the highway’s railings.

Below the highway, the road leading to UP Gate had two layers of barricades, with jersey barriers in the middle. In the last 24 hours, concrete was poured in gaps between the barricades to keep them in place.

During the day, several farmers kept walking up to examine the security arrangements. “This seems like police are going to war. They believe all these arrangements will scare us, but that’s not the case. The protest was set to wrap up but it got new life because of our leader (Rakesh) Tikait. Now, no one is going anywhere. Even if there are consequences, we will fight. No steel barrier is stronger than the will of a farmer,” said Anil Yadav, a protester from Hapur, at Ghazipur.

At Singhu, on Monday afternoon, a new set of concrete barricades came up between the Kisan Sangharsh Committee stage and the main stage. Police placed rows of concrete blocks, held together by iron bars, in addition to the existing barricades. Cement was poured in gaps between barricades to make them permanent. A constable at the border said, “Barricades are being strengthened to ensure tractors do not move out. If farmers or locals have to move from one side to the other, they can come via nearby villages.”

Mukhtar Singh (60), a farmer from Taran Tala, had to walk from one side of the barricaded area to the other to get medicines for his cough and cold as most medical camps are beyond the barricades. Crossing a muddy trench, he said, “It is very problematic because we have to walk more… our clothes get wet and dirty, sometimes we even slip and fall.”

Farmers said water tankers, too, cannot get through the barricades. Nota Singh (30), a volunteer who was trying to guide a tanker that got stuck near a barricade, said, “These barricades have introduced new challenges. Tractors cannot move from one side so it will be difficult if a tractor has to leave.”

Meanwhile, patriotic songs were played by police at Singhu on Monday evening. Police personnel said sound systems were set up to address forces and had to be tested. In a statement, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee said the ‘police DJ’ at the border should be stopped.

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