Updated: October 19, 2021 7:32:46 am
Hundreds of farmers streamed onto the railway tracks in Punjab on Monday in response to the call given by the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) – the umbrella body that is spearheading the protests against the three contentious farm laws – to protest against the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre and demand the expulsion of BJP MP, Ajay Mishra, from the Union Cabinet.
In Punjab, the ‘rail roko’ andolan was organised at 108 places by the farmer unions from 10 am-4 pm. In two places – the Ludhiana Ferozepur line and the Ferozepur Fazilka line – the protests started much earlier, between 5 am-8 am as the farmers arrived early on these tracks. In the Ambala division, four trains – including the Chandigarh-New Delhi Shatabdi Express – were cancelled, while 14 express trains and 4 passenger trains were held up at different places from 9.45 am till late in the evening.
“The Lakhimpur Kheri incident happened on October 3. The Uttar Pradesh Police has mentioned the name of Union Minister Ajay Mishra in their FIR. However, to date, he has not been arrested or removed from the Union cabinet. It is clear that this government justifies violence, and therefore, no action has been taken against the minister,” said Ruldu Singh Mansa, president of Punjab Kisan Union, Mansa.
“Moreover, the minister has so far been justifying himself and has not resigned on his own on moral grounds. Eight people were killed in that incident, including 4 farmers and a journalist,” added Janak Singh Bhutal from BKU-Ugrahan, who was at Goniana railway station in Bathinda district.
Though Monday’s protests were primarily over the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, farm laws too were discussed in the speeches at protest sites, with the farmers stating that nothing less than the repealing of farm laws would be acceptable to them.
Though many farm labourers also sat along with farmers at many places on their own, most farm labourer unions did not take part in these protests directly on Monday. Lachman Singh Sewewala, general secretary of Punjab Khet Mazdoor union said, “The mazdoors participated in today’s dharna on their own. But our union was not part of the protests. However, we have no differences with the farmers and we stand united with them over the issue of farm laws.”
Out of 108 places, around 32 farmer unions of Punjab organised the rail roko at 62 places, while BKU-Ugrahan held the protests at 26 places. Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee members sat on tracks at 20 other places.
In Bareta, Punjab Kisan Union’s women leader, Surinder Kaur, addressed the gathering while in Jagraon, some teenage girls addressed the gathering apart from the union leaders.
Contacted, none of the farm union leaders, however, could explain why at some spots the agitation began much before the 10 am decided time, leading to major disruptions on the Ludhiana-Ferozepur, and Ferozepur-Fazilka lines and inconveniencing a lot of passengers. A large number of people who travel by train for work on a daily basis were forced to make last-minute commute arrangements. Railway authorities said no untoward incidents were reported from any of the dharna sites in Punjab and all the protests remained peaceful.
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