Farmers block key highways in Punjab, Haryana, Raj during 'chakka jam'; Scattered demonstrations in other states

·7-min read

New Delhi/Chandigarh, Feb 6 (PTI) Farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan blocked highways and key roads with tractor-trolleys and sit-in demonstrations on Saturday, while scattered protests were held in other states during a three-hour 'chakka jam' called by agitating farmer unions which are demanding the scrapping of the Centre’s new agri laws.

Scores of people were detained in several states, including nearly 60 at Shaheedi Park in the national capital which was brought under a thick security blanket, during the demonstrations held between 12 noon and 3 PM to oppose the internet ban and other restrictions at the protest sites on Delhi's borders.

Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the agitation, claimed the 'chakka jam' (road blockade) protest got huge nationwide support which once again 'proved' that farmers across the country are united against the farm laws and demanded that the government come up with a fresh proposal for talks.

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait declared that farmers will return home only after the government repeals the contentious legislations and makes a law ensuring a legal guarantee for the minimum support price (MSP).

'There will be no compromise on this,' the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader said, adding they were prepared to continue their protest till October 2.

No untoward incident was reported in any part of the country during Saturday's protests, with authorities stepping up security in sensitive areas in light of the violence during the farmers' tractor parade on January 26.

Protesters were detained by police as they stalled traffic in parts of Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The Congress and Left parties too joined the protests in some states in support of the 'chakka jam' called by the agitating farmer unions.

While Delhi along with Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand was kept out of Saturday's road blockade by agitating farmer unions, authorities again suspended internet at the protest sites of Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri as well as adjoining areas for 24 hours till Saturday night and closed entry and exit facilities at 10 prominent Delhi Metro stations for few hours.

Earlier, the internet services were suspended in these areas from 11 PM on January 29 till 11 PM on January 31, which was further extended till February 2.

Singhu border looked crowded than before as more tractors and farmers made their way to the protest sites, while drone cameras, multilayered barricades, nail-studded roads and barbed wires were in place as part of precautionary measures by the police.

Security forces, including anti-riot police, were deployed at important junctions across the national capital, including Red Fort and ITO, which had witnessed violence on January 26.

The police also monitored content on social media, officials said.

Addressing a press conference at the Singhu border in the evening, Samyukta Kisan Morcha's senior leader Darshan Pal said the ball is now in the government's court.

'We are ready to talk. The ball is in the government's court. We clearly told them that their last proposal (of suspending the farm laws for 12-18 months) was not acceptable to us. Now, they should come up with a new proposal,' he told reporters.

At the Ghazipur protest site, Tikait, the 51-year-old Bharatiya Kisan Union leader, said, “This movement will continue for a year. It's an open offer and proposal to the government. A law on MSP will have to be made. Without that, we won't go back home.' Raising slogans against the Centre, farmers parked their tractor-trolleys or squatted in the middle of roads with posters, flags and banners in Punjab and Haryana, blocking several highways, including the Chandigarh-Zirakpur, Amritsar-Pathankot, Tarn Taran-Kapurthala, Ferozepur-Fazilka, Muktsar-Kotkapura, Bathinda-Chandigarh, Ludhiana-Jalandhar, Panchkula-Pinjore and Ambala–Chandigarh highway, leading to traffic snarls.

Women also took part in the stir in a sizeable number at several places.

Folk songs blared from speakers and people perched atop truck-tractors hoisted the tricolour on the KMP Expressway.

Biscuits and fruits were distributed to the protesting farmers sitting on the road. Those coming to the stretch with their vehicles were informed about the protest and requested to turn back, while ambulances and other emergency vehicles were allowed to pass.

'We don't want to create any inconvenience for the people. That is precisely the reason why the call given was for three hours only. Security forces have been blocking -- our and their passage -- for so many days, we expect the 'aam aadmi' to co-operate with us for some hours at least,' said Ajit Ahluwalia (29) from Haryana's Hisar.

In Rajasthan, farmers at many places including Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Dholpur and Jhalawar disrupted traffic movement by occupying highways and main roads and held demonstrations, police said.

Farmers in Uttar Pradesh handed over a memorandum to respective district authorities, demanding the withdrawal of the laws.

Several farmer groups and the Congress held a protest in Mumbai. 'Rasta roko' protests were held in Karad and Kolhapur cities in Maharashtra.

At least 40 protesters, including senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan's wife Satvasheela Chavan, were detained for holding a protest on a busy road at Kolhapur Naka in Karad in western Maharashtra this afternoon, a police official said.

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna leader Raju Shetti and others were detained briefly in Kolhapur.

In Telangana, police said several people were taken into preventive custody, as leaders of opposition parties joined the farmers in 'raasta roko' protests on various.

Farmers blocked highways in different parts of Karnataka to show their solidarity, following a call given by various farmers' associations led by Kuruburu Shanthakumar. A few pro-Kannada organisations too came in support of the agitators.

The demonstrations were held in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Kolar, Koppal, Bagalkote, Tumakuru Davangere, Hassan, Mangaluru, Haveri, Shivamogga and Chikkaballapura, and protesters courted arrest in some parts of the state.

Condemning the protests, Union Minister for Chemical and Fertilisers D V Sadananda Gowda said the Narendra Modi government has implemented the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee report to address the agrarian distress and farmers' suicide issues.

Protests were also held in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu.

This is part of the pan India stir 'for seeking justice for farmers. This is not for political purposes or to inconvenience the general public,' the president of the coordination committee of Tamil Nadu All Farmers' Association, P R Pandian, told reporters.

Ahead of the nationwide protest, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted that the peaceful 'satyagraha' of the 'annadatas' is in national interest as the farm laws are 'harmful' for the country.

Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also slammed the government over the farmers' issue by posting on Twitter a picture of the multi-layered barricading at one of the farmer protest sites.

'Why are you scaring us with the wall of fear?' she tweeted along with the picture.

The Congress had on Friday extended support to the 'chakka jam', saying party workers will stand shoulder to shoulder with farmers in their protest.

The Morcha, an umbrella body of the farmer unions protesting the three farm laws, had said on Friday that the peasants across the country will block national and state highways for three hours between 12 noon and 3 PM to protest the internet ban in areas near their agitation sites, the alleged harassment meted out to them by authorities, and other issues.

Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh were excluded from the protest. Tikait claimed inputs had been received regarding some “miscreants trying to disrupt peace” during the 'chakka jam'.

'This (protest) is for the whole country. They will try to divide us, saying it's a movement of one state. But that it is not. It's a pan-India movement,” he added.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting since late November at Delhi's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh demanding the rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the 'mercy' of big corporations.

However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture. PTI CHS VSD KIS KND GDK AG GMS ASK MG BUN RT