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Leveraging blockade, ensuring Centre can’t ignore: Why farmers rejected Burari

The Burari Park, commonly known as Nirankari Samagam Ground, has an area of over 20 hectares and is around 20 km from Singhu border, where the largest number of farmers have gathered.

Written by Sukrita Baruah , Amil Bhatnagar , Ashna Butani | New Delhi | Updated: December 1, 2020 11:50:46 am
Leveraging blockade, ensuring Centre can’t ignore: Why farmers rejected BurariThe Burari ground wears a deserted look on Monday. (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

The fact that they can leverage a border blockade with the Centre and the idea that the designated ground in Burari will be an “open jail” where the government will find it easier to ignore their demands pulsed through the refusal of protesting farmers to vacate Delhi’s entry points, as the blockade of the national capital’s borders with Haryana at Singhu and Tikri continued on Monday.

“If we reach the ground, we will be limited to that particular area. It will be a win for the government since it will change the narrative of the protest. We want to choke the supply lines of Delhi so that when people ask for accountability, the government will need to take a decision,” said Manjeet Singh, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Doaba), which is part of the 30-union delegation that will hold talks with the government.

The Burari Park, commonly known as Nirankari Samagam Ground, has an area of over 20 hectares and is around 20 km from Singhu border, where the largest number of farmers have gathered. On Sunday, farmer groups rejected the Centre’s invitation for talks conditional to them moving to the Burari ground, and instead announced that they would blockade five points of entry into Delhi — Sonipat, Rohtak, Jaipur, Ghaziabad-Hapur, and Mathura — in the coming days.

This, even as the Delhi government sets up makeshift tents, food stalls, toilets and Covid testing camps for protesters at the Burari ground in case they decide to come. There is heavy police presence here and details of all those entering and exiting are taken. This has prompted fear in the minds of those protesting at Singhu and Tikri — that once they reach Burari, they will not be allowed to travel anywhere else.

Even as mandis in Delhi start reporting a slowdown in their supplies, blockading farmers say they are aware their current form of protest is causing inconveniences which could grow — but add that is also the logic of their protest.

Farmers also recalled that their long train blockade protest in Punjab did not result in the repeal of the three new farm laws, or a written assurance on the MSP. “Even when we had done a two-month rail roko in our own state, there was no consequence and no conversation with us. Then if we sit in one corner of Delhi, what result will we get? They didn’t pay attention to us when we were protesting in our state, which is why we have now arrived at their doorstep in the capital and we have to keep up the pressure on them,” said Major Singh from Punjab’s Barnala district.

The Burari grounds Monday wore a deserted look even as more protesters joined those already at Singhu and Tikri borders. “Till our demands are met, we will not leave from here. We understand there are economic issues; I myself have asked potato growers from my region to not supply. Unfortunately there is no other way to wake this government up. When Delhi is under siege, they will come up with a solution, even when our protest is purely peaceful,” said Manjeet.

Lakhvir Singh from Moga district, who is currently at the Tikri border, said, “We have no benefit from inconveniencing ordinary people. All around the area where we are blockading, there are smaller routes for people to carry on their everyday work. But without pressure on the government, there is no movement.”

In the meantime, the group of farmers from Western Uttar Pradesh villages camping at Delhi’s eastern border at Ghazipur echoed the same fears of being cornered once they go to the Burari ground. Satyaveer Singh (58), said, “In all these years, we have never gone to Burari. So why is the government calling us there? We are open to having this discussion at any open ground like Jantar Mantar or Ramlila Maidan. Once we go in there, we are afraid that we will not come out.”

Rajan Jawla (21), who hails from a line of sugarcane farmers and studies in Delhi, added: “Burari is like a jail. Once we are inside, they can resort to lathi charge or tear gas. The government can come here or decide on another location.”

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