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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Delhi Chalo protests: ‘This is people’s power… rights will have to be given’

The Delhi Chalo march on Wednesday had men, women and children all ages joining in to make their voice reach the power corridors of Delhi.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Sambhu | Updated: November 27, 2020 10:19:18 am
Punjab protests, Delhi Chalo march, Dilli Chalo, Punjab farmers protest, Farm Bills 2020, Indian ExpressMembers of various farmers organizations try to cross Shambu border during the 'Delhi Chalo' protest march, in Patiala, Thursday. (Express Photo: Harmeet Sodhi)

Hun Dilli di khair nahi,” roared Satinder Singh (55) as he braved water cannons at the Shambhu border to push through the multi-layer barricading laid by the Haryana Police. The 55-year-old farmer from Dera Baba Nanak, who is associated with BKU (Lakhowal), boasted, “Khattar tere pani to nai darde (We don’t fear your water cannons, Khattar).”

At langar duty at the barrier, Jasbir Singh Dhillon (80), a farmer from Fatehgarh Sahib, pointed to the spirited crowds and quipped: “Eh lok shakti hai..haq dene paine ne (this is people’s power. Rights will have to be given).”

The Delhi Chalo march on Wednesday had men, women and children all ages joining in to make their voice reach the power corridors of Delhi. Part of the protesting crowd was Sukhbir Kaur (51), who had come from all the way from Mangat village of Dasuya along with her 11- year-old daughter, Gursimrat.

Both watched as it took protesting farmers little more than an hour to remove the carefully laid barricades at the Shambhu border on the Amritsar-Delhi highway to thwart their onward march.

At around 8 am, a few young farmers from Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib tried to manually remove the boulders, but cops unleashed water cannons. The farmers’ strength increased at 8.30 am, and they removed all boulders by tying them with their tractors. Next, the barricades were thrown in Ghaggar river, and a crane and other heavy vehicles manually pushed aside to make way.

“Rapid action force (RAF) used tear gas and water cannons for few minutes, but our farmers braved water and gas both, we asked them to throw as much water on us, we use this much of water for gargles,” said Prem Singh Bhanghu, president of All India Kisan Federation while talking to The Indian Express.

READ | Women put shoulder to the wheel as Delhi Chalo march gathers steam

Once the barricades from one side were removed by 10 am, farmers started moving ahead in small groups. Large groups followed with more trolleys from Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib joining in later.

The second barrier on the other side of the road was removed by farmers at about 2 pm when an ambulance had to come from Ambala to Punjab. Again boulders were removed by hand and barricades were thrown in Ghaggar and ambulance was given way in less than 10 minutes.

“After all barriers were removed, farmers moved ahead with cops deciding not to confront them,” said Satish Sharma, a former BJP leader who had resigned from his party over farm bills.

Two farmers also sustained injuries on their hands due to tear gas shells while minor stone pelting was also done by farmers on cops.

By 10 pm, farmers had reached Samalkha town in Panipat district. “As the vehicles are hundreds in numbers, the queue behind these vehicles is very long,” added Bhanghu. He alleged, “Hurdles have been placed along the way at many locations… road has also been dug up at some places, while trucks have also been parked on roadside to slow us down….par ab Dilli door nahi…”

The farmer leader added: “We broke barricades at Ambala Cantt, Kurukshetra as well and braved tear gas and water cannon at Karnal too. Our destination is Ramlila Maidan in Delhi.”

Farmer unions said that about 9,500 vehicles of 29 farmer unions crossed Haryana borders from Shambhu, Lalru, Sardulgarh, Budhlada, Ghula Cheeka and Khanauri side of Punjab.

READ | His men fire tear gas and shoot water cannons, Haryana DGP says ‘acted with great restraint’

Seventeen-year-old Amandeep Singh from Basma village of Mohali had joined the march with his father, Sukhdev Singh (45).

“It is high time that Centre tells us whether it wants Punjab or not. Else, we can do business with Kabul, Kandhar…and even Pakistan,” said Gurdeep Singh, from Mustabad Jattan, a village of Gurdaspur. He added: “This feeling has started developing in youth that they want azaadi. So, the Centre must decide what they want to do on farm bills issue.”

At langar duty, a farmer from Talwara, Manjit Singh (75), said: “Will be here till the last vehicle passes through. Our women and children have sent us on this duty by beating dhols as we are on a mission .”

A retired FCI manager, Gurnam Singh Dhumma, marched ahead with farmers towards Delhi and so did a Class 10 student, Sachin Sharma.

Sachin said that he will come back after 3-4 days.

But others in the convoy said that they had no plans to return soon. “We have ration supplies for 6 months, we can spend the whole winter on roads and nearby gurdwaras, and the community will also helps us. We don’t know when will we come back,” said Ram Singh (65) from Thua village.

“Khattar himself is a Punjabi. He should not have stopped us as he knows the temperament of Punjabis as we are rebel by nature,” said Rajinder Singh, Kirti Kisan Union leader from Mansa. He along with a large convoy of about 2,000 people broke barrier of Sardulgarh-Sirsa road at about 1 pm and marched ahead.

“Haryana cops stopped us, but their residents served langar to us at Hanspur village after the barrier was broken. We are at Kurukshetra now,” he added.

“Punjabi spirit is all about fighting hard. We protect the borders and even feed the country. PM must decide whether he needs us or not,” said Bhupinder Singh Maan , farmer from Gurdaspur.

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