Punjab farmers break Haryana barricades, clash with cops
Farmers from Punjab faced water cannons and broke police barriers at the State’s border with Haryana as they pushed towards the national Capital on Thursday on their “Delhi Chalo” march against the Centre’s farm laws.
By late evening, a large group of them had reached the road toll plaza at Panipat, about 100 km from Delhi. Bhartiya Kisan Union (Haryana) leader Gurnam Singh said the protesters planned to spend the night there and will resume the march the next morning.
At the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border, police and Punjab farmers in their tractor-trolleys were locked in a confrontation for a couple of hours in the morning.
Police made announcements on loudspeakers asking the farmers assembled on the Punjab side to disperse. But as protesters tried to push through barricades, the Haryana Police used a water cannon and lobbed teargas shells. Farmers chucked some steel barricades into the Ghaggar river from the bridge where they had been stopped.
Apart from this confrontation in Ambala district, there were face-offs between the protesters and police in Haryana’s Sirsa, Kurukshetra, Fatehabad and Jind districts bordering Congress-run Punjab.
Later, Haryana Police DGP Manoj Yadava praise the police for acted with “great restraint” against Punjab-based farmers who broke barricades during their “Delhi Chalo” march. He said the farmers took an aggressive stand and tried to disturb law and order by “pelting stones” at police at many places. Some police personnel sustained injuries and police and private vehicles were damaged, Yadava added.
Police had placed cement and steel barricades and parked trucks on the road to stop the farmers’ tractor-trolleys, some of them laden with food for the planned two-day protest, which many felt could extend further. But a few hours later, at most border-points, the farmers were let through.
At Shambhu, a few protesters initially managed to cross the barricades on foot. Later, police eased the blockade, allowing the tractors to proceed on the road to Delhi, 200 km away. But barricades were set up at other points on this Amritsar-Delhi highway that passes through Haryana.
At Karnal, there was another face-off and police again used a water cannon.
Police used water cannons also against protesters trying to enter Kaithal district, and at Khanauri border where farmers were protesting under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugarhan).
“It is condemnable that Haryana Police is using such measures to suppress an assembly of peaceful protesters. We are protesting in a peaceful manner, but they want to prevent us from using our democratic right to protest,” a Punjab farmer told reporters earlier at Shambhu.
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal were among the opposition leaders who slammed the Haryana Police action at Shambhu. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar exchanged words over Twitter.
The Congress veteran asked Khattar why his Government was stopping farmers, and the BJP leader told him to stop “inciting” them. Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal too criticised attempts to thwart the protest. “Today is Punjab’s 26/11. We are witnessing the end of the right to democratic protest,” he tweeted. The Haryana Police said they acted with restraint and nobody was seriously hurt during the day. No farmer was arrested, they said.
Ahead of the protest, Haryana had announced sealing its borders with Punjab to prevent farmers from entering the state on their way to Delhi.