Chandigarh, Oct 1 (PTI) Punjab farmers stepped up their agitation against the new farm laws on Thursday with rail blockades at over 30 places, even as top SAD leaders, including party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, led 'kisan' marches from three revered places of the Sikh community.
The 'kisan' marches led by Sukhbir Badal from Akal Takht, the top temporal seat of the Sikhs in Amritsar, Harsimrat Badal from Takht Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo, and party senior leaders Prem Singh Chandumajra and Daljeet Singh Cheema from Keshgarh Sahib in Ropar culminated at two different places on the outskirts of Chandigarh as police stopped them from moving towards Governor V P Singh Badnore's residence to submit a memorandum seeking revocation of the laws.
Police used water cannons and mild cane charge at the Chandigarh-Mullanpur and Chandigarh-Zirakpur borders to disperse the Akalis and later, several of them, including Sukhbir Badal and his wife Harsimrat Badal, were detained as a precautionary measure.
To prevent the protesting Akali workers from entering Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, the authorities had imposed section 144 of CrPC which prohibits the assembly of five or more people.
'We detained them (Akali leaders) for a brief period and they were later released,' Chandigarh Senior Superintendent of Police Kuldeep Chahal, who assumed charge on Thursday, said.
'We wanted to hand over a memorandum to the governor but it is sad he did not meet us. We were lathi-charged which we strongly condemn. It is an injustice. They tried to suppress the voice of farmers,' Sukhbir Badal said.
Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal condemned the 'repressive use of violent force let loose on peaceful Akali workers, farmers and SAD leaders' by the Chandigarh Police and called it 'a painful and dark day for democracy in the country's history'.
'If those in power think that this would break the spirit of the peaceful Akali workers, then they are sadly mistaken and have learnt nothing from history. Punjabis have fought the worst form of repression during the Emergency and in 1984,' he said in a statement.
'This kind of repressive and authoritarian response to peaceful democratic activity disfigures the image of our country abroad,' Parkash Badal said.
Last week, the SAD had announced to part ways with the NDA, the third major party to walk out of the BJP-led coalition in the last couple of years.
On September 17, Harsimrat Kaur Badal had quit the Union Cabinet after the SAD chief strongly opposed the agri bills in Lok Sabha, claiming the legislations will 'destroy' the agriculture sector in Punjab.
President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday gave his assent to the three contentious bills -- Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill; Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill.
Meanwhile, a total of 31 farmer organisations have joined hands to intensify the agitation in Punjab. They had announced to block rail tracks from October 1 for an indefinite period.
Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal said farmers blocked rail tracks at 30 places in the state to press the Centre to revoke new farm laws.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said they blocked rail tracks at Dhablan (Patiala), Sunam (Sangrur), Budhlada (Mansa) and Gidderbaha (Muktsar).
Some other farmers' unions also blocked rail tracks in Barnala, Bathinda, Faridkot, Gurdaspur, Rupnagar, Phillaur, Moga and other places.
However, farmers under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee have been squatting on rail tracks in Amritsar and Ferozepur since September 24.
Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal said farmers staged sit-ins in front of the residences of several BJP leaders, including former Punjab BJP chief Shwait Malik in Amritsar.
Farmers in the state have already given a call to boycott some corporate houses and their products.
According to them, the Centre wanted to 'benefit' a few corporate houses with these 'black laws'.
Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher slammed political parties for holding their own protests, saying they were doing so keeping in mind the 2022 Punjab Assembly polls. PTI CHS VSD IJT