New Delhi, Feb 3 (PTI) Farmers' agitation sites just outside Delhi resemble 'international border' now with authorities building makeshift walls, planting huge metal spikes on roads and deploying concertina wire fences, protesters alleged on Wednesday, even as officials defended the heavy-barricading citing law and order issues.
The heightened security measures and various restrictions have been imposed at the three protest sites -- Singhu (Delhi-Haryana border), Ghazipur (Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border) and Tikri (Delhi-Haryana border) -- since the Republic Day violence that had left over 500 police personnel injured and one protestor dead.
On January 26, breaking away from the designated routes for a tractor parade, hundreds of protestors clashed with police in various points to lay siege to the Red Fort and climb the flagpole.
While at the Singhu border, the epicenter of the ongoing farmers' agitation, shipping containers, iron rods between barriers and cement slabs have been used to seal the entry points, the tried-and-tested barbed wires, stone boulders and iron nails have been deployed at Tikri and Ghazipur borders to block people's entry into Delhi or to the protest sites.
'The protest sites are looking like international borders. It is as if we have come from Pakistan. On one hand, they (the government) want us to talk, and on the other hand they are doing everything to de-link us (from the city),' farmer leader Kulwant Singh Sandhu told PTI.
'This shows the restlessness of the government,' he said.
In addition to heavy-metal barricades and concrete slabs, measures like digging trenches and using DTC buses as roadblocks have been deployed at the said Delhi-Uttar Pradesh and the Delhi-Haryana borders.
Zamhoori Kisan Sabha General Secretary Sandhu claimed the barricading of national highways and stopping the movement of people and vehicles is the authorities' 'strategy' to 'irritate' the common people and try to make them stand against the protesting farmers.
'But the farmers won't budge,' he said. “No matter how much obstructions they create in our path. They are stopping people so that they get irritated and turn against us.' 'They (the authorities) don't know that the locals and people across the country support our movement. Sadly, the government has not learnt its lesson from the Ghazipur incident,' he said.
Mandeep Singh (26), who has been camping at the Singhu border for the past 15 days, echoed his leader's sentiment and said the show of force and blocking the roads pose problems for the locals, not the protesting farmers.
'These multiple-barriers cannot dampen our spirit or affect our movement. We are following the instructions of our leaders, who have clearly told us to stay put at our respective places. We won't move ahead or take a step back. So, ultimately it is the locals who have to face trouble in commuting, not us,' said Singh, from Punjab's Ludhiana district.
Another protestor Sadaker Singh, who has been camping at the Singhu border for the last 10 days, questioned authorities’ intention.
'We will not relent. We are protesting peacefully and will continue our protests until our demands are met,' he said.
Several locals, the protesting farmers said, have been helping them, be it by providing electricity connection from their houses, giving access to toilets and washrooms to the women protestors, or by sharing their shop's wi-fi connection as the Central government has suspended internet at the protest sites.
Thousands of security personnel -- including the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and Rapid Action Force (RAF) -- armed with batons, teargas shells and ammunition are seen maintaining a strict vigil at the protest sites throughout the day.
Delhi Police Commissioner S N Srivastava had on Tuesday defended the heightened security measures, saying the force has 'strengthened' the barricading so that it cannot be broken again.
'I am surprised that when tractors were used on January 26 to attack policemen and barricades were broken, no questions were raised at that time. What have we done now? We have just strengthened the barricades so that they are not broken again,' he had said.
Referring to the multi-layered barricading and roadblocks at protest sites, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday asked why the national capital was being converted into a 'fortress', and asserted that farmers work hard for the country and should not be treated in this manners.
Gandhi said that the farmers' issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible and the government needs to listen to them. PTI MG AMP NIT TIR TIR