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Monday, March 01, 2021

Protesters on backfoot, Haryana cops look to operationalise toll plazas again

Given the change in circumstances, government officers hinted that police will try to get the toll plazas functional soon, but will avoid any immediate confrontation with the agitators.

Written by Sukhbir Siwach | Karnal, Yamuna Nagar |
January 28, 2021 8:46:37 am
Farmers Protests, Delhi tractor rally violence, Republic Day violence, Tractor parade violence, Haryana toll, India news, Indian ExpressTo maintain law and order, heavy police force has been deployed at toll plazas. Meanwhile, farmer leaders at toll plazas said they will follow the decision taken by Sayunkat Kisan Morcha leaders in connection with lifting of dharnas from toll plazas. (Express Photo)

Finding protesting farmers on the backfoot a day after violence in Delhi, the Haryana Police have initiated efforts to operationalise toll plazas across the national highways in the state. For the past one month, farmers have ensured free passage to vehicles at almost all toll plazas on highways in the state.

Given the change in circumstances, government officers hinted that police will try to get the toll plazas functional soon, but will avoid any immediate confrontation with the agitators.

To maintain law and order, heavy police force has been deployed at toll plazas. Meanwhile, farmer leaders at toll plazas said they will follow the decision taken by Sayunkat Kisan Morcha leaders in connection with lifting of dharnas from toll plazas.

Following directions from Haryana DGP Manoj Yadava, police officers Wednesday went to the dharna venues to talk to the farmers sitting at the toll plaza sites.

At the toll plaza near Yamunanagar on the Chandigarh-Yamunanagar highway, Yamunanagar SP Kamaldeep Goyal reached the dharna site in the afternoon and said: “We will try to persuade farmers to lift their dharnas.”

A senior police officer said, “We have appealed to the agitators that the dharnas which are going on at toll plazas for the past one month should end now. There is time for everything, the agitation can’t run indefinitely. A point has been made by farmers in favour of their demands. Violence has taken place Tuesday and an untoward incident can take place at the toll plazas too.”

“We always try to reach out to the persons concerned. It’s not like that the police only have dandas to use every time. They are farmers and ours is people’s police. Even for the smooth functioning of the Republic Day parade at district headquarters, we engaged them to not disturb national events. They listened to our point of view and did not disturb the parade anywhere. If the point of view is presented in the right perspective, then the people concerned respond,” added the officer.

At a toll plaza near Barwala town on Chandigarh-Yamunanagar highway, local farmer leaders, however, said they will not lift the dharna till a decision is taken by the top leaders of Sayunkat Kisan Morcha. A farmer, Darshan Singh, said, “Our agitation will continue to save our land from corporates.”

A local farmer leader, Karamchand, added, “We condemn whatever violence happened at the Red Fort Tuesday. Those who indulged in the violence were not part of our unions. Those leading these groups were part of a conspiracy to defame our agitation.”

In the evening, a group of youths claiming to represent “Hindu organisations” staged a protest at this dharna site. They came on motorcycles and raised slogans like “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. They also burnt an effigy of “Khalistan”.

“We have staged a protest against the insult of the national flag. Such incidents never happened at the Red Fort earlier,” said a protester among them, Jitender Rana.

At the Ghraunda toll plaza on the Delhi-Ambala Highway (NH-44) near Karnal, heavy police force was deployed to prevent a gathering even as a langar (community kitchen) was being served.

A biker, Paramjeet Singh, 30, claimed that he was assaulted by a group just few km before the toll plaza. This angered the farmers who were moving to Punjab from Delhi borders in their tractor-trolleys. However, the policemen assured them nobody will be allowed to take law into their hands.

Since Tuesday afternoon, a large number of farmers — who had gone to join the “tractor parade” — have returned to their villages in Punjab and Haryana. A these return journeys continued on Wednesday as well, there was a traffic jam like situation at many places on the national highway.

At the NH-44 near Rai (Sonipat), farmers admitted that the Red Fort incident is a big setback for their agitation but hoped they would regain the strength soon.

An activist of BKU (Doaba) from Punjab, Jasbir Singh, said, “Our farmer unions failed to manage a large crowd. There was a lack of volunteers to guide the crowd apart from lack of communication. There was no clarity among the farmers till Monday late evening on what route had been finalised for tractor parade on Tuesday. All farmers could not be communicated about the final route till Tuesday morning. They followed the route as opted by those who were in the front line and who had hijacked the agitation. This was part of political conspiracy to defame farmers.”

A farmer from Shera village of Panipat, Om Prakash, 66, said, “No doubt the Red Fort episode is a setback for us but farmers face such obstacles in their daily life. Farmers will face this challenge too and are determined to continue its fight as their land parcels are on stake this time.”

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