Chandigarh, Sep 20 (PTI) Farmers on Sunday blocked roads in Haryana and burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in neighbouring Punjab, protesting against the farm bills passed in Parliament.
Two MLAs from the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), which is part of the BJP-led ruling coalition in Haryana, also participated in the protests, reflecting a rift on the issue among their ranks.
Farmers occupied portions of roads and highways at several places in the state between 12 and 3 pm, following a call given by the Haryana unit of the Bhartiya Kisan Union against the agri-marketing bills, two of which were passed by Rajya Sabha on Sunday.
After 3 pm, reports said the road blockades were lifted, ending the day’s protests in which BKU was also supported by several other farmer organisations.
In Ambala, Haryana Police used a water cannon at the state’s border to stop Punjab Youth Congress workers from entering the district and travelling ahead to Delhi as part of their “tractor rally”.
The Punjab protesters set fire to one of their own tractors when they were forced to end their rally at the Haryana border, police said.
Farmers were joined by 'arhitiyas' -- or the commission agents at ‘mandis’ --during their protests at many places in Haryana.
There was heavy police deployment across the state, particularly where the bigger gatherings were expected.
Police diverted traffic to alternative routes. Executive magistrates were stationed along with police at many protest venues.
Ambala-Nahan national highway near Naraingarh, Jind-Patiala and Jind-Delhi roads near Julana and Sonipat-Gohana highway were among the roads blocked in Haryana.
Traffic was also disrupted on Ambala-Chandigarh highway due to the protests by the Punjab Youth Congress activists. But there was no blockade on the Ambala-Delhi road.
The situation at the Haryana-Punjab border was tense for a while as Youth Congress activists were bent upon moving on the national highway towards Delhi.
But the spot was heavily barricaded by police, who also used water cannons to disperse the protesters.
Farmers at several places in Punjab burnt effigies and copies of the farm bills, claiming that the new laws will destroy their livelihood.
The three bills are aimed at giving farmers the choice to sell their produce at competitive prices. But many farm organisations fear they will lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system.
Two JJP MLAs, Jogi Ram Sihag (Barwala) and Ram Karan Kala (Shahbad), participated in the Haryana protests, going against the official line spelled out by the party’s senior leader and Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala.
Sihag said he will not hesitate even to resign if his constituents want him to do that when at any point they feel that the farmers' interests are compromised.
Chautala, however, hit out at the opposition Congress accusing it of misleading farmers.
“Nowhere in the new farm reforms there is any talk of abolishing the crop MSP,” he told reporters.
Varun Chaudhary, the Haryana Congress MLA from Mullana in Ambala who joined the protest at Mandour village near Panjokhra Sahib, said the bills were not a “shield for farmers” but for hoarders.
Meham Independent MLA, Balraj Kundu, who protested in Rohtak and Charkhi Dadri districts, claimed the bills will benefit the corporates.
“From October 2, I will sit on a fast to protest against these anti-farmer measures,” he said.
In Yamunanagar, Haryana BKU chief Gurnam Singh said, “It is the country's misfortune that despite the farmers' protest these bills were passed.” He called it a “murder of democracy”.
“Laws are for people and if they are the ones who are protesting then for whose benefit have they been passed?” he said. “These laws are not pro-farmers as the government claims, but the big corporates will benefit.” He said the statewide protest was peaceful and 17 farmers' organisations extended their support.
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, who also joined the Youth Congress protesters, said all parties except the Akali Dal and the BJP are with the farmers.
He slammed Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, accusing him of earlier supporting these 'black laws'. The SAD has pulled out of the Union government in protest against the bills.
Joining the tractor rally, Indian Youth Congress president Srinivas B V said his party stands shoulder to shoulder with the farmers.
“This government wants to destroy 80 crore families. Former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave the 'Jai Jawan-Jai Kisan' slogan, but under the present regime the farmers are ruined,” Srinivas said.
Haryana Congress president Kumari Selja said when a Congress-led government comes to power the law will be repealed. The party will hold protests on Monday against the “anti-farmer” bills at district headquarters across Haryana.
On Sunday, Rajya Sabha passed the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.
The bills were passed by Lok Sabha on Thursday. A third bill is yet to be passed in Rajya Sabha. PTI SUN CHS VSD SNE RDK ASH ASH ASH ASH