The Uttar Pradesh Police on Sunday withdrew an order asking fuel stations in Ghazipur district to not sell petrol to tractor owners so that they are allegedly prevented from participating in the proposed farmers’ rally on Republic Day, The Hindu reported. The police said the notice had been issued “by mistake”.

Tens and thousands of farmers protesting the new agricultural laws have threatened to intensify their agitation on January 26 by organising a massive tractor rally during Republic Day celebrations. In recent days, thousands of more farmers from Uttar Pradesh and other states have embarked on their tractors, lorries and trucks to participate in the event.

A controversy erupted in Ghazipur after a police station allegedly issued orders directing petrol pumps to refuse selling fuel to farmers. Copies of the purported order, which was issued by the station house officer of Suhwal, were widely shared on social media.

The order said the plying of tractors was prohibited in view of the high-alert in the state on Republic Day, and that Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which prohibits the gathering of four or more people in an area, is imposed in the district. The station house officer added that since that there was a possibility of farmers taking out tractor rallies in localities falling under the Suhwal police station, petrol pump owners in the area were banned from supplying fuel to any tractor, or sell it in drums or cans from January 22 to January 26. This was necessary for “maintaining peace and order”, the notice said, adding that the petrol pump owner would be “accountable” for disregarding the order.

Though the notice did not make any direct references to the Republic Day rally in Delhi, social media users pointed out that this was apparent attempt of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led administration to clamp down on protestors, and stop them from reaching the national Capital.

Amid the outrage, Ghazipur police issued a clarification on Sunday saying that no such order or direction was issued in the district. It said the notice released by the Suhwal station was issued “by mistake, and that the order was immediately withdrawn”. Additional Superintendent of Police-Rural Ghazipur was asked to investigate the matter and submit a report regarding the “negligence”, the district police added.

However, similar notices have emerged from other areas of the district.

In one such order, the police of Saidpur station asked a tractor owner, Vir Bahadur Yadav, to not run his tractor on the road till January 26, and threatened to take action if he didn’t comply with the directive. The notice cited Republic Day, peace and security concerns, flag march and commuting of school children on the road as reasons, The Hindu reported.

The station house officer of Saidpur told the newspaper that the legal notice was issued to people under Code Of Criminal Procedure 149, directing them to not do “anything illegal” on the road as part of Road Safety Week. “There is no notice issued to them barring them from working or any other activity,” he said. When asked if this meant tractors could ply on roads freely on January 26, the police official said, “what is legal will be allowed”, but refused to elaborate.

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Farm laws: Delhi Police grants permission to farmers to hold tractor rally on Republic Day