Indian National Lok Dal leader Abhay Chautala was detained by the police near Shambhu barrier in Haryana on Thursday after he led the “Jal Yudh Sammelan” (Water War Conference) towards Punjab’s border to start digging for the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal, ANI reported. The Punjab police had constructed a 10-feet high wall of iron barricades to stop protestors from crossing over.

Protestors broke the barricades and entered Punjab’s portion on Ghaggar river bridge near Shambhu barrier on Punjab-Haryana border. After reaching Ghaggar bridge, the workers dug the ground on the road as a symbolic gesture. However, Chautala insisted that the march be allowed to enter Punjab to protest peacefully, reported The Tribune.

Punjab police warned the INLD to vacate the area and not move further after entering Patiala district as prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC was in force. However, since they dismissed the warnings, the workers and Chautala were arrested.

The Punjab Police on Wednesday had fortified entry points to the state from Haryana. Police personnel were deployed in large numbers to fortify the entry points at the Shambhu toll barrier and Sarala headworks, The Indian Express reported. Senior officers have been posted to monitor the situation.

Ambala Police Commissioner RC Mishra had said more than 1,000 personnel had been deployed on the route expected to be used the INLD’s workers. “Various checkposts at strategic locations have also been set up to maintain the law and order situation,” Mishra had said. The Punjab Police has also used drones and a state government helicopter to conduct aerial surveys of the region. Security personnel had also cordoned off areas near the canal on the border between the two states, according to ANI.

Union Joint Secretary (Home Affairs) Dalip Kumar had held meetings with senior Haryana and Punjab officials on Wednesday, including the chief secretaries and Director Generals of Police for both states. Haryana officials had reportedly assured Kumar that they would not allow protestors to take the law into their own hands.

Earlier, Chautala had said the INLD would dig the canal even if the Army was called in to stop them, IANS reported. Party leaders say they expect up to 100,000 activists to march to Punjab to dig the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal.

Separately, the Supreme Court on Wednesday had said Punjab could not defy its order on the construction of the canal, and ordered it and Haryana to maintain peace while it was being built. The court had said its earlier ruling on the matter must be honoured and that it would not accept any defiance. “We are at a stage where the decree has to be executed,” a bench of the apex court headed by justices PC Ghose and Amitava Roy had said.

The canal is meant to distribute water among six states – Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Delhi. Last year, the Supreme Court had struck down a Punjab law that dismissed a pact to share water with five other states. The matter has been brought up several times by politicians in Punjab. The Centre is now supposed to take over the construction of the canal. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has called the water-sharing dispute a “livelihood and economic issue”.