The Nirankari Samagram Ground in Burari on Friday evening wore a deserted look, hours after the Delhi Police, under the ambit of the Narendra Modi government, succumbed to the pressures from farmers and allotted the area as the protest site against the Centre’s new agriculture laws. Tens of thousands of farmers have reached Delhi from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Since Thursday, farmers have been undeterred by the winter chill, police barricades, tear gas and water cannons. At some places, the authorities from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana took extraordinary measures as trenches were dug up near key roads to stop their protest march to the national Capital.
At the ground in North West Delhi, police officials, few farmers and some members of Shiromani Akali Dal’s Delhi unit were present. Community kitchen and portable toilets were also being set up to assist the protesting farmers, who have resolved not to leave Delhi until the farm laws are withdrawn.
A group of 11 farmers from Punjab, who were detained on Thursday night at the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara in Central Delhi, were brought to the ground by police officials. Before reaching Delhi, the farmers had to clear several barriers set up on the route from Punjab to Delhi.
Among them, Khushal Singh, a farmer from Rupnagar district of Punjab, told Scroll.in that they had left to protest on Thursday morning and crossed Karnal and Sonepat to reach Singhu border between Delhi and Haryana.
“There were big trucks parked there [in Karnal] to block us,” said 47-year-old Jugraj Singh, another farmer who came to Delhi with Khushal Singh from Punjab. In Sonepat, they were greeted with another barrier.
“They put big containers and dug up the roads there,” Jugraj Singh said. “We figured out a way from within fields and reached. They kept firing tear gas at us at different points.”
The farmers’ group finally reached Delhi around 3 am that night, but were then arrested and taken to Hari Nagar police station in South West Delhi, Jugraj Singh said. Station House Officer of Hari Nagar police station told Scroll.in that he was unaware of this incident. He, however, said that the police station was used as a detention centre to hold protestors.
‘Never thought we would face this’
The barriers at the borders along with the tear gas firing and the water cannons had come as a surprise, some farmers said. “Since two months we have been sitting peacefully in Punjab,” Khushal Singh said.
“We never thought that we would face this,” he added. “They are trying to suppress us...they think that what they have done is right. They are doing what benefits them and not farmers.”
Others present at the ground criticised the use of police force on the protesting farmers.
“It is very unfortunate in this democratic system what the government has done,” said Harmeet Singh Kalka, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Delhi unit. “This movement will not stop till farmers get what they want,” he said, adding that there were at least five lakh farmers involved in the protests.
As preparations continued, some said that there was confusion within the farmers at the borders who did not want to move to Nirankari Samagram Ground as it is situated nearly 20 kms away from other iconic protest sites like Ramlila Maidan and Jantar Mantar in Central Delhi.
“The farmer groups want to speak at Ramlila Maidan,” Kalka said. “And we can see there are barely any arrangements made here.”