Rejecting the Centre’s invitation for conditional talks, farmers camping at the Delhi-Haryana border reiterated their demands on Sunday, and said they would not vacate the arterial GT Karnal highway.
Farmers’ groups held discussions at Delhi’s northern Singhu Border — through which the highway to Haryana, Chandigarh, and onward to Himachal Pradesh and Punjab passes — to chalk out their course of action. In the evening, they announced at a press conference that they would blockade five points of entry into Delhi — Sonipat, Rohtak, Jaipur, Ghaziabad-Hapur, and Mathura — in the coming days.
The farmers have been camping outside Delhi since Friday. On Saturday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had invited farm unions for talks on December 3 on the condition that they move the protest from the highway to the Sant Nirankari Samagam Ground in Burari.
“We have rejected the invitation from the Centre. One of their conditions was that we must go to the Burari Park first. We will never go to Burari Park. We have come to know that it is more an open jail than a park,” Surjeet Singh, president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Krantikari), Punjab, said.
“Farmers from Uttarakhand who reached Delhi today were told by Delhi Police that they would be taken to Jantar Mantar, but they were instead held at the Burari Park. The protest at the Singhu Border will continue,” Surjeet Singh said.
Delhi Police spokesperson Dr Eish Singhal denied the allegation. “Before their protest, we had appealed to the farmers to not protest in Delhi, and stated that protests at Jantar Mantar were not allowed. We had rejected all their requests,” he said.
The Burari Park, commonly known as the Nirankari Samagam Ground, belongs to the Delhi Development Authority and is spread over an area of over 20 hectares. It is around 20 km from the Singhu Border.
The farmers are demanding the repeal of three “pro-corporate” farm laws enacted by the Centre, and have vowed not to back down. “We have rations to last us months, until our demands are met. Our tractors are like mini lodgings,” Surjeet Singh said.
He also said the farmers would not allow any person affiliated with a political party on their platform. “We demand that the rate of MSP (minimum support price) should be fixed, and that farmers should not be fined for burning farm stubble. We also demand that the proposed electricity Ordinance should be kept in abeyance,” Surjeet Singh said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted on Sunday that “The Centre must talk to farmers immediately without any preconditions.”
During the day, several leaders of farmers’ groups gave speeches from atop tractors on the Haryana side of the Singhu Border as Delhi Police remained stationed behind barriers mounted with barbed wire. More farmers were likely to join the protest over the next two days, the leaders said.
A group of 80-100 farmers managed to cross into Delhi using narrow lanes on Sunday, and protested some 50 metres from the police barricade. “We do not have any intentions of moving further. We came from the other side and were allowed in, since police thought we were headed towards the Nirankari Ground. But the protest will continue here,” said Sukhdev Singh of Amritsar, one of the farmers camped near the Alipur police post.
There were no more than 200 farmers at the sprawling Nirankari Ground in Burari on Sunday evening. The Delhi government had put up tents and mobile washrooms for them, and organised langars at several places – but the farmers were camping on their tractor trolleys.
“Some of us had to come to Nirankari Ground earlier, but that does not mean we have caved in. The protest here is the same as that on the border, and we will stay here until we are allowed to protest at the Ramlila ground, or our demands are met,” Diljeet Singh from Mohali said.
On Friday, police had resorted to lathi charges and tear gas against the protesters at Singhu Border. On Sunday, more farmers from Punjab and Haryana joined the protesters at Northwest Delhi’s Tikri Border. Delhi Police have parked trucks blocking the road on the Delhi side of the border. Tikri Kalan is in the Outer Delhi district, and the border is close to Mundka and Peeragarhi. The highway to Bahadurgarh and Jhajjar in Haryana passes through Tikri.
“We don’t have an estimate of the number of people behind the barricades (on the Haryana side). A lot of farmers and others from Punjab have joined the protest now. We told them that they could go to Burari’s Nirankari Ground but they want to stay here. There are more than 300-400 trucks and tractors on the road,” a senior police officer at the Singhu Border said.
Nishan Singh, a farmer from Punjab, said, “Most of the farmers here are from our state. We are calling our family members and friends to join us. We won’t leave Delhi unless they repeal the three farmer laws. Over 50 people from the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee will join us tomorrow, and we will then decide our next step.”
On Sunday morning, farmers beat drums and raised slogans as police made announcements about social distancing and Covid guidelines. With the border sealed, traffic from Haryana was diverted to Jharoda and Rajokri. Police at the pickets recorded the details of commuters before letting them enter Delhi.