Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal were detained by the Delhi Police on Friday as they led a protest march in the national capital to mark the first anniversary of the passage of three contentious farm laws.
On Friday morning, hundreds of protesters, including Akali leaders, marched on Delhi’s Rakabganj Road. The march started from Gurudwara Rakab Ganj at 11.30 am with Parliament House as the destination. The leaders were detained around 1.30 pm, before which they addressed party workers and called it a “Black Day”.
Sukhbir said, “I have come to know that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government released a notification restricting us from entering Delhi’s Gurudwara. They are scared… The same is with the BJP. As the leader of the SAD, I can say – whether it is farmers, poor people or traders, Punjab’s prosperity depends on brotherhood and peace. I request you (protesters) to maintain peace. They accuse us of violence but we know how to fight against the system without being violent.”
“We are in thousands… our mission is to show the Centre that we will not stop. The people of Punjab and farmers won’t stop unless the government removes the three farm laws. The Prime Minister introduced these laws in the country; SAD will make sure that these laws don’t get implemented in Punjab,” he said.
DCP (New Delhi district) Deepak Yadav said Sukhbir, Harsimrat and 15 other party leaders were detained at Parliament Street police station and later released.
Police said the leaders were detained for violating Covid guidelines. Police had deployed over 500 policemen in New Delhi district, and the DCP had on September 15 written to Badal and SAD spokesperson Daljeet Singh Cheema asking them to avoid the protest.
According to the SAD, a memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister through the Executive Magistrate, seeking a repeal of the “black” farm laws and demanding commitment from the Centre that farmers would be consulted before bringing in any legislation affecting their lives.
Harsimrat, who resigned from the government last year over the farm laws, said in a tweet that the participation in the protest march shows public anger. “Farmers have been protesting at the Delhi border for a year, but the Centre is keen on quashing them. We are proud to have quit the NDA. Akali Dal will continue to resist despotism,” she said.
“This government, which used to say ‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikas, sab ka vishwas’, on September 17, 2020 – it did not think of farmer’s vikas. Not only did they betray their political allies but they have betrayed farmers of the country,” she said. “I want to tell you that 2024 is not far. The countdown to your decline has begun. You won’t be able to set foot in Punjab, you will lose Haryana, and UP too. And you will become a party of two MPs, like in the past, when Akali Dal used to support you when you had two MPs.”
Meanwhile, traffic congestion was reported on the Delhi-Gurgaon border Friday morning as Delhi Police blocked entry of vehicles and barricaded the lanes towards the national capital.
According to sources, around 12.30 am on Thursday night, Gurgaon police received information about a group of farmers and protesters from several districts of Haryana and Rajasthan reaching Sirhaul and trying to enter Delhi. The information was relayed to the Delhi Police, who then put up barricades for inspection and stopped entry of certain vehicles.
Some traffic from the Gurgaon side was diverted towards Faridabad, Kapashera Basai and Kundli-Manesar-Palwal expressway. The lanes remained intermittently blocked between 12.30 am and 11.30 am, causing snarls on the highway for over two kilometres that lasted two or more hours. During peak hours in the morning, traffic jams were witnessed until Shankar Chowk, leaving several commuters stuck.
A traffic police officer said, “Traffic remained congested from 9.50 am to 11.30 am on account of barricading on the Delhi side, following which it eased. Traffic movement remained slow till the afternoon when some lanes were opened.”
Ravinder Tomar, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), traffic, said, “There was a call of protest in Delhi. Due to security reasons, Delhi Police barricaded the lanes which caused congestion, first at 12.30 am at night for about 25 minutes. We diverted traffic towards Kapashera, Basai, KMP and nearby areas. We were in constant touch with Delhi Police and informed them when congestion was reported till Shankar Chowk. After that, barricading was removed for some time and traffic movement was smooth. Around 9.30 am today, after barricades were put up again, there was some congestion for about half an hour, and later it was cleared.”
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