Updated: February 6, 2021 10:21:42 pm
Amid heightened security, farmers protesting against the Centre’s new agriculture laws blocked roads at several places across the country on a call given by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha for a nationwide ‘Chakka Jam’ or road blockade on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Union Home Ministry ordered the suspension of internet services at Singhu, Ghazipur, and Tikri borders of Delhi till 11.59 pm.
During the ‘Chakka Jam’, which took place from 12 pm to 3 pm, farmers shouted slogans and parked their tractors-trolleys in the middle of highways at several places in Punjab and Haryana to block roads.
The ‘Chakka Jam’ was in response to the “ignoring” of the farmers’ demands in the Union Budget 2021 and the internet ban imposed by the central government at various protest sites bordering the national capital. This was the first big event organised by the agitating farmers after the Republic Day tractor rally, which saw chaotic scenes as groups of protesting farmers broke off the planned parade route, entered the centre of the national capital, clashed with the police as well as hoisted a farm union flag and a Sikh religious flag on the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort.
The protests were prominent in Punjab and Haryana where many national highways were blocked by the farmers, causing disruption of traffic. In Rajasthan too, farmers blocked the highways and main roads at many places including Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Dholpur and Jhalawar and held demonstrations.
In Jammu, farmer groups staged a protest along the Jammu-Pathankot highway in support of the ‘Chakka Jam’. In Karnataka, the police detained the protesters who were agitating outside Yelahanka Police Station.
In Haryana, thousands of farmers blocked the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway.
Farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at Delhi’s borders for over two months seeking the repeal of the three agriculture laws. The laws are — Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed the apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporations. The government, however, has rejected these claims stating that the laws will only give farmers more options to sell their produce.
‘Won’t return home until demands met’: Tikait
Bharatiya Kisan Union (Arajnaitik) leader Rakesh Tikait said the government has time till October 2 to repeal the laws and that the agitation would continue unless their demands are met. Addressing the farmers gathered at Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, Tikait said, “We won’t return home unless our demands are met.”
Tikait, whose tearful appeal after Republic Day violence galvanised the dividing farmers’ unions, said, “We have given time to the government till October 2 to repeal the laws. After this, we will do further planning. We won’t hold discussions with the government under pressure.”
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal said the government was wrong in assuming that only Punjab is participating in the ongoing farmer protests. “Entire country is protesting, farmers from all states are sitting at protest sites. If they still want to turn a blind eye claiming only Punjab is protesting, then one can’t do anything,” news agency ANI quoted her as saying.
Calling the nationwide ‘Chakka Jam’ or road blockade a huge success, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) said it is ready for talks with the government but they should come with a new proposal on the three contentious laws, including a legal guarantee on the Minimum Support Price (MSP).
In a statement accessed by news agency PTI, SKM, a group of over 40 protesting farmer unions, said farmers’ call for ‘Chakka Jam’ got huge support across the country and it once again proved that the farmers are united against three farm laws.
“We are ready to talk. The ball is in the government’s court. We clearly told them that their last proposal (of suspending the farm laws for 12-18 months) was not acceptable to us. Now, they should come up with a new proposal,” farmer leader Darshan Pal said.
50 detained in Delhi
As many as 50 people were detained by the Delhi Police near Shaheedi Park in central Delhi for allegedly holding a protest in support of the ‘Chakka Jam’ call given by the farmers, according to news agency PTI.
In view of the ‘chakka jam’, the Delhi Police had strengthened security arrangements at all border points in the national capital by erecting multi-layer barricades to stop the movement of vehicles at the Ghazipur border.
Opposition lends support to the agitation
Ahead of the ‘Chakka Jam’, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the peaceful ‘satyagraha’ of the ‘annadatas’ was in national interest as the farm laws were “harmful” for the country.
“The peaceful satyagraha of annadatas is in national interest — these three laws are not just harmful to farmers-laborers, but also for the people and the country. Full support!” Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
अन्नदाता का शांतिपूर्ण सत्याग्रह देशहित में है- ये तीन क़ानून सिर्फ़ किसान-मज़दूर के लिए ही नहीं, जनता व देश के लिए भी घातक हैं।
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 6, 2021
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also attacked the government over the farmers’ issue by posting a picture of the multi-layered barricading at one of the protest sites on Delhi borders. “Why are you scaring us with the wall of fear?” she tweeted along with the picture.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the NDA government should accept the demands of the farmers and repeal the laws.
“There is high alert in Delhi, but one can understand the pain of farmers across the country. I have seen that farmers from Gujarat also went to Delhi to present their points (on farm laws),” he said.
“The main issue is why did the BJP bring the laws to benefit select corporates by setting aside the interest of farmers? And if the BJP thinks that the laws are in the interest of farmers, and they understand them better, then why doesn’t it accept the farmers’ demands?…It should accept their demands,” he added.
Delhi Metro operation affected
Entry and exit facilities at ten Delhi Metro stations, including Mandi House and ITO, were closed for the duration of the ‘chakka jam’ from 12 noon to 3 pm, and reopened after the protest ended.
In a series of tweets, the DMRC informed commuters that multiple stations had been closed. “Security Update Entry/exit gates of Mandi House, ITO and Delhi Gate are closed,” it tweeted.
It later also tweeted that entry and exit gates of Vishwavidyalaya station were also closed. “Entry/exit gates of Lal Quila, Jama Masjid, Janpath and Central Secretariat are closed. Interchange facility is available,” the DMRC said.
The security was especially tight at Red Fort and ITO which had witnessed violence during the January 26 tractor rally organised by the protesting farmers.
The police also tracked content on social media to keep a tab on those spreading rumours, PTI reported.
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