Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait on Monday evening said that the Bharat Bandh or countrywide strike they had called for was a successful one, ANI reported. Farmer unions under the umbrella body Samyukta Kisan Morcha observed the strike to mark one year of the enactment of three contentious agriculture laws.
They had called for all educational institutions, government and private offices, shops and industries to stay shut. The strike was in effect from 6 am to 4 pm on Monday.
“We had the full support of farmers,” Tikait said. “...We can’t seal down everything as we have to facilitate the movement of people. We are ready for talks with the government.”
In an online event after the strike got over, Tikait said that the farmers’ demand for withdrawal of the laws can be resolved through dialogue with the government and not in courts, the Hindustan Times reported.
“I don’t know what is going to be the end of this protest but the movement has begun and the country’s youth, who often remained away from discussion on farming-related issues, is also joining it,” he said.
Meanwhile, massive traffic jams were reported from Delhi’s borders with Gurugram and Noida during the strike, as the police and paramilitary soldiers checked vehicles entering the national Capital during the protest.
The Delhi Police said that the traffic jam was cleared up by noon, ANI reported
In Haryana, the protestors blocked highways at 25 places, The Indian Express reported. Paramilitary forces were deployed in Haryana’s Jind district as the protestors blocked several roads.
In Punjab, the farmers blocked the Moga-Ferozepur and Moga-Ludhiana national highways, leading to a complete shut down of shops and transport in the area, PTI reported.
The farmers also blocked several railway tracks in Punjab and Haryana, according to PTI. It led to cancellation of several passenger trains.
On Monday morning, the movement of traffic from Uttar Pradesh to Ghazipur was stopped because of the protest. Protesting farmers also blocked the Punjab-Haryana border, ANI reported. The Haryana Police had on Sunday asked commuters to be prepared for traffic jams, according to NDTV.
In Delhi, shops remained open, and autorickshaws and taxis remained on the roads as usual, PTI reported. Rajender Soni, general secretary of the Delhi Auto Taxi Union, told the news agency that they were in support of “genuine farmers”, but were not on strike because members of the body were in deep distress due to their shrinking earnings.
Brijesh Goyal, chairman of the Chamber of Trade and Industry, said that farmers did not contact its associations for any strike.
“Also, the festival season is approaching and its time for traders to recover some of the losses they faced due to the pandemic and lockdown,” Goyal said. He, however, added that organisation supports the farmers and urged the government to meet their demands.
However, some trade unions and civil society groups held protests at Jantar Mantar in Delhi in solidarity with the strike, PTI reported.
Opposition backs farmers
The governments of Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh backed the farmers’ Bharat Bandh call, ANI reported.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted in support of the farmers’ agitation.
“Farmers’ non-violent satyagraha is intact even today but the exploitative government does not like this,” he said. “Therefore a Bharat Bandh has been called today.”
Punjab’s newly-appointed Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi also backed the protests.
“Our farmers have been struggling for their rights since more than a year and it is high time that their voice is heard,” he said in a tweet.
Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu on Sunday called on all party workers to protest against the farm laws.
He added: “Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee firmly stands by Farmer Unions demand for Bharat Bandh on 27 Sept 2021. In the war of right and wrong you can not afford to be neutral.”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the Centre to consider the agitating farmers’ demands. “Considering farmers’ demands will not be like bowing down in front of anyone as farmers are also people of our country,” PTI quoted him as saying.
Bahujan Samaj Party President Mayawati also extended her support to the farmers. Mayawati said that farmers in the country were dissatisfied with the hastily passed agricultural laws.
“The farmers have been agitating in the whole country and especially in the states around Delhi for almost 10 months, and have called for ‘Bharat Bandh’ tomorrow,” she had tweeted on Sunday. “BSP supports the peaceful strike.”
Meanwhile in Kerala – where the ruling Left Democratic Front and Congress have voiced support for the protest – the trade unions went on a strike, PTI reported.
Farmers also blocked state and national highways in Karnataka, leading to disruption in movement of vehicles, especially in the state capital of Bengaluru.
In West Bengal, the Left Front supported state-wide shutdown of shops and transports. Several proestors blocked the IIT Kharagpur-Hijri railway line.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi’s border entry points since November 2020, seeking the withdrawal of the farm laws passed last September.
The government has claimed the new laws are aimed at making farming more profitable, but the farmers argue that they will bring about corporate dominance of the sector. However, farmers claim that once the prevailing authority of the state marketing boards – that provide a shield against exploitation – collapses, private entities will dictate the price of their produce.
They fear that the government plans to dismantle the minimum support price regime under the guise of reforming the agricultural sector.
In January, nearly two months into the farmer protests, the Supreme Court had suspended implementation of the farm laws.