At 8 am on Friday, the Delhi Police started removing the iron and cement barricades near the farmers’ protest site at the Ghazipur border using six JCB machines and hydra cranes.
Police officers and labourers were also seen removing the iron nails that were embedded on NH-9. By evening, mud, plastic waste, and rubble lay scattered across the road.
Multiple layers of iron and cement barricades, and at least five layers of concertina wires, were put up by police in the wake of the January 26 violence during the farmers’ protest against the three farm laws.
Speaking to The Indian Express, DCP (East district) Priyanka Kashyap said they were removing barricades from Ghazipur and traffic movement would resume in the coming days. She added that all barricades, including the yellow Delhi Police ones, will be removed.
Highly placed sources said instructions came from the Home Ministry. Several rounds of meetings were held by the MHA in the last 10 days, several of which were attended by Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana.
“Farmers’ groups had claimed roads were blocked by police, which affected interstate movement of people and commercial vehicles. MHA recently asked Asthana about the barricades and it was learnt the decision was taken by former police chief S N Shrivastava post the January 26 incident. After several rounds of meetings and discussions with UP and Haryana police officers, it has been decided to remove all barricades and restart traffic movement,” said a senior police officer.
A similar scene played out at the Tikri border as well where layers of concrete barricades were being broken down and removed using JCB machines. “We are removing barricades from Tikri border,” DCP (outer district) Parvinder Singh said.
The move comes following the Supreme Court’s October 21 observation that protesters cannot block public roads indefinitely. “Ultimately some solution has to be found. We are not against the right to protest even when a legal challenge is pending. (But) roads cannot be blocked like this,” Justice S K Kaul, heading a two-judge bench also comprising Justice M M Sundresh, had said.
Farm union leaders said the move vindicated their stand that they had never blocked roads at the city border points.
Senior SKM member Dr Darshan Pal said: “So far, there is no call to go to Delhi. Any future course of action will be decided in a meeting of the SKM.” BKU president Gurnam Singh Charuni said, “Traffic movement was allowed by protesters in the past too and will be done even now.”
The Ghazipur site now resembles what it used to be when the protests first began, but with much fewer protesters. The same number of tents are present, and farmers take turns to visit the site and tend to work and family.
Hundred metres from the barricades, farmers discussed the possibility of entering Delhi but said it would depend on what their leaders say. Vikas Malik (42), a protester from UP’s Shamli, said: “The situation has only gotten worse in the last year. Not only are we not getting MSP for sugarcane, but we have not been receiving payments on time in the last few months.”
SP Singh (52) from Bulandshahr has written over 100 poems since he joined the protest last November. Singing about the protests, freedom, and farm laws as cranes continued to remove the barricades, he said: “If we don’t write about the wrongdoings of today, what response will we give our children years later?”
Impasse at Tikri
In an attempt to open the Delhi-Rohtak national highway, officers of Haryana and Delhi held a meeting with farmer leaders at Mini Secretariat, Bahadurgarh, (Jhajjar) Friday. While farmer leaders offered to open a 5-ft passage, Jhajjar DC Shyam Lal Poonia said an agreement could not be reached.
Sources claimed around 10 pm, police removed a layer of concrete block and opened 20 feet of the road, prompting protests from farmer groups. Balkaran Brar, a farmer leader, said, “We had said we will agree to open a 5-feet track so two-wheelers can pass. But, police tried to surreptitiously open the entire road at night. We received information and reached the spot, and started protesting. After mediating with police, the barricades have been put up again. We had told police we will have a meeting on November 6 and inform them of our decision. But they breached our trust…”
(inputs from Raakhi Jagga & Sukhbir Siwach)
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