Police, local villagers and administrations want them to vacate multiple dharna locations
After two months of protests without any significant pushback, the farmers’ agitation on the borders of Delhi is now seeing concerted pressure and intimidation from police, as well as local villagers and administrations, to force them to vacate multiple dharna locations. Putting farm unions further on the backfoot in the wake of Republic Day violence, show-cause notices have been issued to union leaders, six of whom have been summoned to join the probe at the Delhi Police Special Cell office on Friday.
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Thousands of farmers were engaged in a stand-off with the Uttar Pradesh police on the Ghazipur border with Delhi on Thursday evening after the Ghaziabad administration issued an ultimatum that if the protesters do not leave by midnight, they will be removed forcibly. An emotional Rakesh Tikait, leader of one faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, declared that “if the black laws were not taken back and he was forcibly removed from the site, he would end his life.” Electricity and water supply to the protest site were cut earlier in the day, and local residents, whom unions say are being incited by local BJP leaders, have been demanding that they clear the road as well.
On Thursday morning, hundreds of farmers, mostly from Madhya Pradesh, were forced to leave their sit-in site at Palwal on the Delhi-Agra Highway after the Haryana police served them notices with regard to the violence on Republic Day. Union leaders say they also faced pressure from villagers mobilised by BJP activists.
The two largest protest sites, at Tikri and Singhu on the Haryana border, saw an increased deployment of security forces through the day. A group of people, claiming to be residents of nearby villages, staged a demonstration against the agitation at Singhu, demanding that the inter-State highway be cleared. They said their commute was affected by the agitation and also accused the protesting farmers of disrespecting the tricolour at Red Fort on Republic Day. All entry points to the Singhu protest site were then barricaded by security personnel, who acted as a buffer between the protesting farmers on one side and the locals on the other.
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As protesters who arrived for the Republic Day parades head back home to Punjab and Haryana, the numbers of the protest sites have started to dip slightly as well. Mobile Internet has also been suspended at the protest sites, hampering communications.
Smaller protest sites at Chilla and Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, and Masani in Haryana, were all cleared on Wednesday itself.
“It appears that the government is trying to attack from all sides,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, a leader of the Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, who is at the Singhu border. “Supplies and facilities being squeezed in different locations, communication being curtailed severely and setting up local people to protest, apart from getting eviction orders and attempting the same.”
Also read: Tension at Singhu border as locals stage demo against farmers’ protest
“The government’s efforts to discredit the ongoing farmers’ movement are continuing. The nervousness of the government is evident from how it is installing security forces on all borders,” said a statement by Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal, issued on behalf of the umbrella group, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha. “The government wants to show this movement as ‘violent’ again and again, but the SKM has a unanimous approach to ensure that the movement will remain peaceful.” Deploring the actions against “peacefully protesting farmer unions,” the SKM leaders demanded that “strict action should be taken against anti-social elements like Deep Sidhu,” whom they have accused of instigating the march to Red Fort and the mayhem that followed.
SKM leaders undertook a Sadbhavana or Goodwill Yatra for 16 km from the Singhu border on the road towards Sonepat, flying the tricolour and using loudspeakers to broadcast the message that “patriotism and nationalism are not the sole claims of only some people, and that it is from farmer households that India’s jawans also emerge and guard the nation, and that farmers are equally patriotic if not more.” Similar marches were held at the Tikri border as well.
Farmers have been protesting on Delhi’s borders since November 26, demanding that three agricultural reform laws be repealed and a new law be enacted guaranteeing remunerative prices for all farm produce. Negotiations with the government broke down last week.
(With inputs from Anuj Kumar at Ghazipur, Shinjini Ghosh at Singhu, Ashok Kumar at Gurugram and Priscilla Jebaraj and Saurabh Trivedi in New Delhi)