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Thursday, February 25, 2021

‘Chakka Jam’: 3-hr road blockade mainly in 2 states, farm leaders fan out to keep peace

In the two states, though, the blockade disrupted traffic on many highways even as farmer unions took steps to ensure there was no repeat of the Republic Day violence when a section of the protests spiralled out of control.

Written by Raakhi Jagga , Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh, Ludhiana |
Updated: February 7, 2021 7:20:47 am
The Chakka Jam protesters at Ladowal Toll on NH 1 in Ludhiana. (Express Photos by Gurmeet Singh)

For three hours, from 12 noon to 3 pm Saturday, farmers protesting against the Centre’s new farm laws blocked several roads mainly across Punjab and Haryana Saturday.

Elsewhere, the call for a nationwide “chakka jam,” evoked scattered response.

In the two states, though, the blockade disrupted traffic on many highways even as farmer unions took steps to ensure there was no repeat of the Republic Day violence when a section of the protests spiralled out of control.

On most stretches, traffic resumed after 3.30 pm; ambulances and essential service vehicles were allowed to pass through; several leaders criss-crossed the state and underlined to protesters the need to keep the peace; the blockade wasn’t allowed to extend beyond the stipulated 3 pm.

‘Chakka jam’ of Kisan unions at Ladowal toll plaza on NH-1 in Ludhiana on Saturday.

The government, too, was on alert. Right through the day, all district police chiefs were in the field. Ahead of the chakka jam, the Centre, on February 5 midnight, snapped Internet services at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur, all the three sit-in protest sites until 11.59 pm February 6.

An order issued by Ministry of Home Affairs said it was being done “in the interest of maintaining public safety and averting public emergency.”

After the January 26 violence, the Centre had suspended Internet in these areas through a series of orders first between January 26 and January 27, and then between January 29 and February 2.

Clearly, the shadow of January 26 hung over the protests today. Speaking to The Indian Express, Vicky Jainpuri of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC), whose members veered off the designated route on R-Day, said: “We told our youngsters, ‘you have already seen the consequences of the Red Fort incident. No one should misbehave again’. Peace is our strength.”

Buta Singh Burjgill, president of BKU (Dakaunda), one of the key protesting unions, said that he and his senior vice-president Manjit Dhaner repeatedly underlined this caution.

“The January 26 episode by anti-social elements who infiltrated our groups caused great harm to us,” said Burjgill. “So we had given repeated instructions to youngsters who were to bring people in tractor-trolleys to dharna sites to drive slowly and remain polite.”

That’s why the jam for was just three hours, Dhaner added. “So that people can reach the sites by noon and return home before sunset. The idea was to show our strength and to be heard.”

Said Burjgill: “We told all speakers that no one should make any personal attacks on any leader. Our protest is against farm laws…we directed speakers not to give any provocative speeches. ”

“The chakka jam took place peacefully without any disturbance. This protest will continue if the government doesn’t pay heed to our demands,” said farm leader Darshan Pal at a press conference.

The road blockade at 250 sites across Haryana touched several districts including Sonipat, Jhajjar, Rohtak, Kaithal, Fatehabad, Panipat, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Sirsa, Mahendragarh, Ambala, Hisar, Jind and Palwal.

Villagers, farmers and supporters carrying Kisan Ekta flags and banners gathered at key intersections and toll booths on highways.

Raising slogans against the Centre, they parked their tractors or squatted on the road. Among the highways affected were Chandigarh-Zirakpur, Amritsar-Pathankot, Tarn Taran-Kapurthala, Ferozepur-Fazilka, Bathinda-Chandigarh, Ludhiana-Jalandhar, Panchkula-Pinjore and the Ambala-Chandigarh stretches.

Said Haryana’s Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Rajiv Arora: “It was only a three-hour chakka jam and everything went off peacefully. There was no incident of any law and order disruption or any ambulance or any other essential services vehicles getting stuck or blocked by the farmers at any place”.

In Punjab, the chakka jam disrupted traffic at more than 350 places. Protests were organised by 32 farmer unions and BKU Ugrahan and KMSC.

‘Chakka jam’ of Kisan unions at Ladowal Toll Plaza on NH 1 in Ludhiana on Saturday. (Express photo by Gurmeet Singh)

Said Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of BKU Ugrahan: “Weare always peaceful but once bitten is twice shy. Hence, our standard instructions to everyone were not to do any personal attacks on anyone except Deep Sidhu who is a BJP-RSS man and who tried to defame peaceful farmers.”

In Punjab, women participated in large numbers at almost all dharna spots with children as well — on the Moonak-Tohana highway, women outnumbered men.

In Barnala and Ludhiana, many residents joined in with their children.

In parallel, more than 100 dharnas have been on across Punjab for more than 100 days.

On Friday, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait had declared that the protest on Delhi’s outskirts would continue till October 2. He said that he had received “inputs” that some “miscreants” would try to “disrupt peace” and so had called off the “chakka jam” in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

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