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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Bharat Bandh: Rail, road traffic hit as farmers protest at 550 spots in Punjab

The SKM said the Bharat Bandh call received an “unprecedented and historic” response from more than 23 states and not a single untoward incident was reported from anywhere.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
Updated: September 28, 2021 10:04:28 am
Bharat Bandh, Farmers protests, Punjab farmers, Ludhiana news, SKM, Farmer protest, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi NCR, Indian ExpressFarmers block the National Highway at Ghazipur border during the 'Bharat Bandh' on Monday. (Photo: PTI)

The 10-hour Bharat Bandh called by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) against three contentious farm laws hit normal life in Punjab and Haryana Monday as protesters blocked highways and link roads, squatted on railway tracks, while shops, educational institutions, commercial establishments and ‘mandis’ remained shut.

The bandh was almost complete in Punjab where protesters blocked rail and roads at 550 places and markets remained shut in state, barring in Mohali district bordering joint capital Chandigarh. Farmers had earlier issued an appeal urging public and private organisations to support the bandh and no one was forced to down their shutters, a farm leader claimed. In Punjab, the bandh call was supported by the ruling Congress apart from the Aam Admi Party, Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

The SKM said the Bharat Bandh call received an “unprecedented and historic” response from more than 23 states and not a single untoward incident was reported from anywhere. “Reports have been pouring in about the overwhelmingly positive and resounding response to the Bharat Bandh call to mark 10 months of peaceful protests with rightful demands from the ‘annadaatas’ of the country. Spontaneous participation from various sections of the society was witnessed at most places,” it said in a statement.

“It is patently clear that the people of India are tired of the government’s adamant and unreasonable stand on the protesting farmers’ legitimate demands and anti-people policies in numerous sectors,” it added.

Meanwhile, Ferozepur railway division canceled 22 trains, short terminated four, and rescheduled eight others. Protest dharnas, on national and state highways and link roads, started at 6 am and continued till 4 pm.

ADGP (Intelligence), Punjab, had issued directions to all the deputy commissioners, police commissioners, and district police chiefs to ensure order at all places. CID wings had also been directed to keep a close watch at all dharna sites.

Though protests were held at over 550 places, the strength was thin at most places. It was unlike previous bandh calls when farmers would gather in large numbers at almost all protest sites.

Gurlabh Singh Mahal, an advocate from Mansa, said that ahrtiya and kirana associations supported the bandh call. “Bar associations of Mansa, Bathinda, Muktsar and many other districts of Punjab too supported farmers by striking work,” he added.

Students at Punjabi University, Patiala, and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, too staged protests in support of farmers.

Industrialists in Ludhiana were, however, upset over keeping the units closed especially as on Sunday, not much work was done owing to power shutdown.

Pankaj Sharma, vice president of the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU), said, “I don’t know why government is not sorting out issues of farmers. Every time protest dharanas are organised, our work suffers. On Monday, labourers were not able to reach factories forcing us to shut down the units. I don’t buy the idea of making others suffer while I protest for my rights.”

In Amritsar, supporters of Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee (KMSC) tried to shut down the passport office. However, post discussions with officials, it was allowed to open for the appointments of the day as people had come from far off areas, said Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary of KMSC.

SKM convenor Dr Darshan Pal said the the bandh was yet another effort by the farmers “to wake up the government from its deep slumber”. “We have been protesting for the past 10 months at Delhi borders. We will not give up till the three laws are not repealed.”

The farmers who have been staging protests at Tikri border, squatted on the tracks at Bahadurgarh railway station in Haryana while others staged protests on railway lines at Jagraon, Barnala, Mansa, and Sangrur in Punjab. areas.

KMSC’s Sarwan Pandher said,”From September 28 onwards, we will be protesting against the new norms for paddy procurement. We will protest against the demand of revenue documents from farmers on procurement of paddy. The Punjab government hasn’t taken any stand on it as yet.”

Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary BKU (Ugrahan), said: “Our union organised dharnas at 130 places. On Tuesday, we will be organising a conference at Barnala to mark Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s birth anniversary”.

Outside Jama Masjid, Ludhiana, Shahi Imam Punjab Maulana Usman Ludhianvi along with others burnt the effigy of central government in order to support farmers.

In Haryana, the bandh had an impact in 17 out of 22 districts. No violence was reported from any part of the state, police said.

A Haryana Police spokesperson said: “The impact was largely seen in the form of road and rail blockades and hampered the inter-city road and rail movement, but did not have much impact on the activities within towns and cities. The bandh call did not have any impact in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Narnaul, Rewari and Nuh districts.”

There was no call by the state government employees or their affiliated bodies for a strike in state but road blockades made the movement to offices difficult. However, farmers allowed emergency vehicles to pass.

In Karnal, the home town of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, a large number of shops were closed since morning. Later groups of farmers reached the town to urge the owners of remaining shops to close their establishments. In Sector-7, the protesters set flags of BJP on fire. Karnal in August had witnessed a major farmer agitation after the police resorted to lathicharge on agitators while they were on way to protest against a BJP event in August.

Uchana Kalan, the Assembly constituency of Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala witnessed a complete bandh since early in the morning. All the shops remained closed till 4 pm.

BKU leader Azad Palwa said in Jind district alone, the highways were blocked at 25 places. Terming the bandh as “historical”, acting state president of BKU (Chaduni), Karam Singh Mathana, said: “I am an active BKU member for the past 28 years but had never seen impact of a bandh in Haryana.”

Because of the farmers’ agitation, the passengers of Chhindwara-Firozpur Express had to stay at Ghaso village in Jind for almost 10 hours. The protesters arranged for food and other facilities for the stranded travellers. A passenger Rajkumar, who was on way from Bhopal to Muktsar in Punjab, said: “They offered us snacks and milk for the children. We are with these farmers. We urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi with folded hands to take back these black laws.”

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