Delhi braces up for farmers onslaught

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Delhi braces up for farmers onslaught

Monday, 12 February 2024 | Rajesh Kumar | NEW DELHI

Delhi braces up for farmers onslaught

In a bid to avoid a re-run of the 2020 Farmers’ protest in the Delhi-NCR, the Haryana and the Delhi Police have left no stone unturned to prevent any untoward situation for the farmers’ ‘Chalo Delhi’ protest scheduled to be held on Tuesday.

Large cement barricades, nails punched on access roads, suspension of internet and bulk SMS services, and heavy police deployment to block the farmers have been put in place at the borders.

The Centre has invited representatives of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha to hold another meeting to discuss their demands on February 12. Three Union Ministers — Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai, will hold talks with farmers’ in Chandigarh. The meeting will be held at the Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration in Sector 26.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has accused the Haryana Government of creating a border “between Punjab and India”, referring to the concrete blocks, nails and barbed wire placed on some roads to scuttle the farmers’ proposed ‘Delhi Chalo’ march.

He said the Manohar Khattar-led Haryana Government has placed as much barbed wire at the State’s borders with Punjab as there is at the country’s border with Pakistan. Khattar, however, justified the steps taken by his Government to seal the State’s borders and stop Punjab farmers from marching towards the national Capital, saying the arrangements are aimed at maintaining law and order.

The Delhi Police has issued prohibitory orders under section 144, which bars large gatherings, were imposed in the northeast district and is making every attempt to avoid the unfortunate January 26, 2021 incident wherein protesting farmers clashed with the Delhi Police and one particular wing of the tractor rally, led by Deep Sidhu, moved to Red Fort causing chaos in the national Capital.

Apprehending the disturbance of peace, Haryana has sealed the border with Punjab at Shambhu border on GT Road border (National Highway-44) which falls between Punjab’s Patiala and Haryana’s Ambala districts,  also suspended mobile internet services and bulk SMS in seven districts — Ambala, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa — from February 11 to 13.

In a notification, the Haryana Government said dongle services provided on mobile phones, will remain suspended and only voice calls would go through. In Sonipat, the district administration has asked fuel pump owners to not fill up bottles or other containers.

A 10-litre cap has been introduced for tractors. The administration has warned that providing fuel to those associated with the farmers’ protest will attract action.

Elaborate arrangements are in place at the borders in Jind and Fatehabad districts to stop the march.

Sources said the Delhi Police are blocking the city’s borders with Haryana by placing massive containers. Cranes have been deployed to move these barriers if farmers try to cross into Delhi.

In fact, Haryana too has brought in cement barriers to ensure that the protesting farmers cannot enter Delhi. In Delhi, cops are holding drills to practise firing teargas shells if farmers refuse to stop. A video shows the Delhi Police lining up and firing teargas shells in an open area in north Delhi. The exercise, meanwhile, has left local residents in discomfort. Many of them complained of burning sensation in their eyes after the drill. The Delhi Police is also keeping a close watch on social media in the run-up to the protest.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha had announced the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march by more than 200 farmers’ unions on February 13 to press the Centre into accepting several demands, including the enactment of a law to guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) for crops, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, provision of pensions for farmers and farm laborers, forgiveness of farm debts, withdrawal of police charges, and seeking justice for victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.

The security forces in Haryana and Punjab are reportedly using tractors to simulate the protest and practise how they will respond. A total of 40 such rehearsal using tractors -- 10 in Haryana, 30 in Punjab -- have been held so far.

The road on the Ghaggar flyover at the Shambhu border is shut for traffic movement, with police placing cemented barricades on the road. Barbed wire, sandbags, concrete blocks barricades and other items have been stocked at the Shambhu border.

View cutters and frames were also being put up at the flyover. The Ghaggar river bed has also been dug up to prevent farmers from reaching the highway.

In Jind, two roads near the Haryana-Punjab border have been shut for vehicular movement and restrictions imposed on two more roads, a police official said on Sunday.

In Fatehabad district, police have also put up cemented barricades and spike strips on a Jakhal road to stop protesters from Punjab moving towards Delhi.

The Haryana Police on Saturday issued a traffic advisory asking commuters to take alternative routes. In the traffic advisory, police asked commuters going from Chandigarh to Delhi to take alternative routes via Derabassi, Barwala/Ramgarh, Saha, Shahbad, Kurukshetra, or through Panchkula, NH-344 Yamunanagar Indri/Pipli, Karnal.

Similarly, passengers travelling from Delhi to Chandigarh have been asked to reach their destination via Karnal, Indri/Pipli, Yamunanagar, Panchkula, or Kurukshetra, Shahbad, Saha, Barwala, Ramgarh, according to the police.

The farmers have planned to head to Delhi from the Ambala-Shambhu border, Khanauri-Jind and the Dabwali border.Ambala and Kaithal districts have imposed section 144 of the CrPC, prohibiting the assembly of five or more people.

Police have also been holding meetings with sarpanch of villages and khap panchayats, asking them not to participate in the march.SKM leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal slammed the Haryana Government for making arrangements to stop farmers from going towards Delhi.”We are ready for talks and will never run away from dialogue,” he said.

On one side, talks are going on with the Centre and on the other hand, the State Government is creating terror, Dallewal said, adding, “What the Khattar Government is doing is unfortunate and condemnable.”He said the Government had “promised” a legal guarantee on minimum support price during the stir against the now-repealed farm laws.

The farmer leader said the Government had “promised” the withdrawal of cases registered against farmers.

Farmers were forced to move towards Delhi as their demands were not accepted by the Centre.”Why is the Government scared? Huge barricading was being done. Is this democracy,” Dallewal asked.”If the situation turns bad, it will be the responsibility of the Khattar government,” he said in a video message.

In 2020, a significant number of farmers from Punjab and nearby areas, notably Ambala, congregated at the Shambhu border, breaching police barricades in an attempt to march towards Delhi. Primarily hailing from Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, these farmers staged a year-long protest at Delhi’s border points-Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur-against the now-repealed farm laws.

The farmer bodies held the first round of meeting with the three Union Ministers on February 8.

The leaders of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Lakhowal in Ludhiana, Punjab, declared on Saturday that they would not participate in the ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest scheduled for February 13. However, they stated their readiness to oppose any mistreatment faced by farmers during the march.

Authorities, however, defended the restrictions, citing the 2020 agitation against the now-repealed three farm laws that had stretched to over a year.

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