Farmers protesting against the Centre’s three agricultural laws started a tractor march from Shahjahanpur on the Rajasthan-Haryana border on Sunday, causing the Delhi-Jaipur highway to shut down, NDTV reported. The highway opened partially after being closed for three hours.
Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav and activist Medha Patkar were among the people who led the march. More than 2,000 police officials were deployed across Gurugram for managing the law and order as well as traffic at key points.
Thousands of farmers on their way to Delhi, meanwhile, stopped at Haryana’s Rewari border. Around 600 police personnel, including a Rapid Action Force company, were deployed to stop the farmers, The Hindu reported. The police used barricades and boulders to restrain the farmers.
Leaders of farmers’ unions said later in the day that they will hold a hunger strike from 8 am to 5 pm on Monday, ANI reported. The farmers will also stage protests at all district headquarters. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that he will fast with the farmers.
Bharat Kisan Union President Gurnam Singh Chaduni said that certain groups are ending their protest and supporting the Centre, News18 reported. “We want to clarify that they are not associated with us,” he added. They have been hand-in-glove with the government.”
Meanwhile, Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar and Som Parkash met Union Home Minister Amit Shah over the farmers’ standoff, ANI reported.
Earlier in the day, the protesting farmers cleared the carriageway on Noida-Delhi border point at Chilla after a meeting with Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, reported PTI. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) said they vacated the carriageways around Saturday midnight.
Protests, however, continued at the border as some leaders of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu), including its chief Thakur Bhanu Pratap Singh, stayed back. “Rajnath ji heard our demands and agreed to take the discussions further and resolve the issues,” Satish Tomar, a member of the Information Technology unit of the union, told the news agency. “We were convinced and decided to vacate the road. However, this does not mean that our protest is over.”
He said a “havan” was being performed at the Chilla border on Sunday. Further course of action would be decided by evening.
Another group, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lok Shakti), was staging a protest nearby at the Dalit Prerna Sthal in Noida. Some of the group members had on Saturday tonsured their heads and had earlier gone semi-naked during their protest.
Licypriya Kangujam, a nine-year-old climate activist, has come out in support of the farmers, reported the Hindustan Times. “Our leaders must listen to the voice of the farmers,” she said. “We want climate justice for our farmers and also should take out a permanent solution to solve the ongoing farmers’ crisis at the earliest.”
The agitation against the Centre’s agricultural laws entered its 18th day on Sunday as the standoff between the farmers and the government continued.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated the government’s stance that the agricultural reforms will be beneficial. He said the laws will give farmers access to new markets and technology and help bring investments in the agriculture sector. Farmers, however, have expressed anguish at the laws as it allows the entry of private players into the sector.
Union minister Som Prakash said efforts were being made for the next round of meetings with the leaders of farm unions to end the stalemate. Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala has said that he was hopeful the next round of talks will take place in the next 24-40 hours, reported News18.
On Saturday, the protesting farmers took over some toll plazas in Haryana, not allowing authorities to collect fees from commuters. Toll charges were also not being collected in Punjab as farmers observed sit-in at various plazas.
The call for a fresh wave of protests came as multiple rounds of talks between farm leaders and the Modi government have failed to break the deadlock. Tens of thousands of farmers have blocked key highways on the outskirts of Delhi for over two weeks.
Farm law protests
The Parliament had passed three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for more than 15 days against the laws. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations. The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies.
Opposition parties have also criticised the reforms, saying they would benefit big business and not farmers. They have also urged President Ram Nath Kovind to ask the government to accept farmers’ demands.