Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav was detained on Monday during a protest against the farm laws in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow, NDTV reported. Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh Police deployed its personnel outside his residence and the party’s office in Lucknow, ahead of Yadav’s visit to a march. He was scheduled to participate in “Kisan Padyatra [farmers’ march]” to express solidarity with those protesting against the Centre’s new agriculture laws.
Before being detained, Yadav said his party workers were protesting at several locations in the city, according to ANI. “They [the police] can put us in jail if they want,” the SP chief said. “They’ve stopped our vehicles. We’ll walk.”
The police had set up roadblocks in Vikramaditya Marg, where the former chief minister’s residence and the party’s office are located. The SP chief, along with supporters, broke through the barricade. As police resisted their advance, Yadav and others squatted on the ground, shouting slogans against the government. He was then detained.
Authorities had said the party was not given permission to hold the march, citing coronavirus protocol in place across the state.
“We were informed that people will gather at one spot and launch a procession from there, and I understand that any crowd that remains static for half an hour or an hour, doesn’t help anyone, not even the SP President,” Kannauj District Magistrate Rakesh Mishra told NDTV. “We had even requested that the programme be dropped.”
Yadav had requested people and party workers to provide food and medical supplies to the protesting farmers, who have threatened to intensify their demonstrations and block more roads.
Earlier in the day, Samajwadi Party MLCs Rajpal Kashyap and Aashu Malik, who were attempting to visit the party office, were also taken into custody, according to ANI. “Why are the police stopping us?” asked Kashyap. “This is [an] undeclared emergency. Why is Akhileshji being stopped?”
The Samajwadi Party has backed the protesting farmers. Announcing the march on December 3, Yadav extended his support to the demands of the farmers and asked the Centre to repeal the new agriculture legislations.
“Farmers’ paddy and maize are not being purchased at the minimum support price,” the SP chief said, according to News18. “Inflation is continuously increasing. Pesticide prices have increased. The cost of farming is continuously increasing and the government is making false promises to farmers. Samajwadi Party’s statewide Kisan Padayatra has started from Sunday in support of farmers in the capital Lucknow.”
Yadav asked the government to bring reforms in the law, saying the present legislation is a “death warrant” for farmers. “The farmers were not aware that this law would be implemented and big men would also become farmers,” he said. “There will be a continuous Kisan Yatra in every district of the state on Monday. Kisan Yatra will be taken from the state’s biggest mandi Thathiya to Tirwa.”
Farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, are camping at Delhi’s borders, protesting against the three laws and demanding their withdrawal. They fear the new policies could pave the way for the government to stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of big corporations.
The Centre, which claims the laws would revitalise India’s agrarian economy by boosting produce, has made several attempts to placate the farmers. But five rounds of talks have failed to break the impasse so far. The agitation continued and another round of negotiations is scheduled for Wednesday. The farmers have also called for a countrywide strike on Tuesday.