Farmers protesting against the Centre's new farm laws on Thursday, 22 July, began their agitation at Delhi's Jantar Mantar, pressing their demand for the scrapping of the laws, a short distance away from where the Monsoon Session of Parliament is being held.
A kisan sansad (farmers' Parliament) was also organised at Jantar Mantar. According to Sanyukta Kisan Morcha, it 'was completely disciplined and orderly', even as the Delhi Police, they claimed, attempted to 'stifle democracy'.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait along with groups of other farmers reached the Jantar Mantar for their planned protest in buses on Thursday morning.
The Delhi Police had, on Wednesday, permitted farmers to hold their demonstrations at the location.
Farmers Hold Kisan Sansad at Jantar Mantar
Elaborating on what went on at the kisan sansad, the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha, in their press statement, said:
""In the Kisan Sansad, protesting farmers refuted the hollow claims of Ministers of the Government of India that farmers have not really explained what their concerns with the the laws are, and are only harping about their repeal demand."" -
Further, as per the farmer organisation:
Participants raised several points with regard to the unconstitutional nature of the laws, the undemocratic processes by which the Government of India brought them in, and the serious implications that the law will have on farm livelihoods.
APMC Bypass Act was discussed in detail.
'They showcased before the world their intimate knowledge of this black law', and shared 'why they are insistent on a full repeal and nothing less than that.'
"Farmers have come to Jantar Mantar to prove to the government that they aren't fools. The UK Parliament is debating our issues, but not our government," National President of Swaraj India Yogendra Yadav told news agency PTI on Thursday.
"We have written to all MPs to raise our demands, but Parliament is not taking up our issues," farmer union leader Hannan Mollah said.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Tikait had earlier in the day said, "Farmers will run their own Parliament. Members of Parliament (MPs), irrespective of their parties, will be criticised in their constituencies if they don't raise voice for farmers in the House."
Meanwhile, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh President Shiv Kumar Kakka was quoted by PTI as saying, “We suspect that farmer leaders are among those being snooped upon by the government.”
Further, the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha claimed, "The Kisan Sansad was in a way a good contrast to how the Parliament proceedings were running. Parliamentarians protested at the Gandhi Statue this morning, cutting across party lines, in support of the farmers' movement."
They also informed that while many MPs also visited the Kisan Sansad and were thanked for their support, they were as always not given any stage space or mic time.
Heavy barricading has been done at Jantar Mantar and security personnel have also been deployed. Security measures have also been tightened at the Singhu border, which is the assembly point from where farmers from different protest sites will head towards Jantar Mantar everyday.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha also expressed solidarity 80-year old Sardar Baldev Singh, whose fast-unto-death entered it's fifth day on Thursday.
"He is 80-years old. His general health condition has become weak and has deteriorated. He lost six kilos of weight so far, and his BP and Glucose levels have declined significantly. He started fasting, saying that either he will secure the release of colleagues, or give up his life for this," it said.
The SKM warned the Haryana Government of an intense response from the movement, if anything happens to Sardar Baldev Singh Sirsa, stating that the protection of his health is squarely the responsibility of Haryana Government.
Protesters to Be Escorted By Police
The Delhi Police said in a statement that the number of farmers at Jantar Mantar however, should not exceed 200 persons for Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) and six persons for Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC). The 200 farmers will be allowed to protest from 11 am up to 5 pm every day.
Farmers were also granted permission to hold protests, as long as all COVID-19 protocols are followed.
The Delhi Police said on Wednesday, that the farmers will be escorted by police to the designated protest site at Jantar Mantar from the Singhu border in buses.
Farmer leader Darshan Pal Singh said, “A group of 200 farmers will go in 4 buses to hold 'Kisan Sansad' at Parliament street. We will discuss the agrarian crisis, three farm laws and MSP. We have constituted a 6-member steering committee which will include three members from Punjab,” news agency ANI reported.
Only farmers who have ID cards will be permitted at the protest site and around 5 pm in the evening, police will escort the farmers back to the Singhu border on buses.
Meanwhile, farmers have also been advised not to take out any march in view of COVID-19 restrictions and have been asked to observe COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and social distancing.
Moreover, Delhi Police said that it has 'put in place extensive arrangements to ensure that the protest programme remains peaceful', ANI reported.
Negotiating with the Cops
Speaking to The Quint at the protest, Samyukt Kisan Morcha IT Cell head and founder Baljeet Singh shared the issues they came across in negotiating with the police in order to carry out the protest and the purported harassment they experienced.
"We did not ask the Delhi Police for permission to protest in the first place. We put out a call saying we will March towards parliament from Singhu, other sites, and then wherever they decide to stop us, we will stop there and protest and start our own mock parliament to discuss the farm laws. They are the ones who reached out to us," Singh says, adding that they had decided they will not talk to the administration.
In the first conversation that happened, Singh says the police denied all support. "We told them we never even asked for their permission. You were the ones who called us. Then there was a second meeting where we had proposed that 200 farmers would go everyday, 5 from each union, ensure no unwanted person is a part of this. After hearing us they approved us, adding that the police would escort us. However going to the parliament was not going to happen but protesting in Janpath was allowed. This happened on 20 July."
However after that there were more issues that came up as 22 July approached.
"We were initially surprised when they suggested it but today we were harassed. To begin with they made us sit in DTC buses, when we crossed Singh, 1 kilometer in Delhi, they stopped us at Mantram resort. We asked them why they were diverting us. For 20-25 min they said our buses would be checked etc, the problem was they had never said this to us beforehand. We agreed. Then they added 1-2 policemen in each bus, which we didn't like again. We said this wasn't acceptable and they could escort us in their own vehicles. They kept delaying, stopping the car anywhere. We ended up reaching only at 12:30 and not 11."
Citing how media was facing difficulty in interviewing the farmers, he said, "There was a police official who told us the media will not enter and had to be out. Which wasn't acceptable to us. I don't know why they did that, it was surprising. After we spoke to them repeatedly everything was finally sorted."
Samyukta Kisan Morcha, in their press note, also shared:
"In the morning, police tried to prevent the bus of Kisan Sansad participants from leaving for Jantar Mantar, but that was resolved subsequently. Delhi Police also tried to prevent media from covering the Kisan Sansad proceedings and barricaded them far away from the location where the farmers were holding their Parliament."
Baljeet Singh added that in the next few days the protests will be further streamlined.
Tightened Security Measures
Delhi Police Special CP (Crime) Satish Golcha, Joint CP Jaspal Singh and CP Balaji Srivastava also visited Jantar Mantar on Wednesday to review security arrangements.
On Thursday, Parvinder Singh, DCP, Outer District, told ANI that the police have placed preventive arrangements 'to avoid the entry of any miscreant at the Tikri border'.
All routes leading to Delhi, apart from the main highway, have been put under surveillance and are being monitored round the clock.
The Delhi Police is taking added precautions to ensure that the protests don't go out of hand like they did on 26 January.
At the Singhu border, the police have used cement and concrete barriers as precaution.
Both the police and paramilitary forces have been deployed at the protest venue.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)
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