A massive number of police and paramilitary forces on Monday gathered at Delhi’s borders and dug ditches, erected concrete barricades and spread razor wire across main roads at Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur.
At Singhu, workers under the watch of police personnel hooked iron rods between two rows of cement barriers on a flank of the main highway, reported PTI. Another portion of the highway at the Delhi-Haryana border is practically blocked now as a makeshift cement wall has come up there. The wall that has come up at the site is four feet high and three feet wide.
In Tikri, authorities installed spikes and constructed a three-foot-high concrete wall on the highway at the Jharoda border, leading to Najafgarh, according to The Tribune. Similar arrangements were made in Ghazipur.
Visuals showed a maze of concertina borders guarded by thousands of helmeted personnel, wielding guns and protective shields.
Meanwhile, Delhi Police Commission SN Srivastava asked why questions were being raised about the strengthened security arrangements.
“I’m surprised that when tractors were used, police was attacked, barricades were broken on 26th [January] no questions were raised,” he was quoted as saying by ANI. “What did we do now? We’ve just strengthened barricading so that it’s not broken again.”
Srivastava also said that over 500 police personnel had been injured in the violence.
The three areas on the fringes of the Capital have become the epicentre of farmer protests against the new agricultural laws. Thousands of farmers have been camped peacefully in these protest sites for over two months, demanding the Centre repeals the legislations that they say will benefit private buyers at their expense.
But things changed on January 26, when a small section of the lakhs of protestors who participated in a tractor rally in Delhi, stormed into the Red Fort. One protestor was killed and over 300 police officers were injured as farmers broke through barricades and poured into the city, clashing with the police that tried to push them back with tear gas and a baton charge.
Ever since, the Narendra Modi government has launched a crackdown on protestors, arresting hundreds of them, and filing First Information Reports against the farm union leaders, even though they had broadly appealed for peace and disowned those who entered the Red Fort. The Centre suspended internet services at all the protest sites on the borders of Delhi, and even halted SMS services in 17 out of Haryana’s 22 districts.
Since the violence, at least five criminal cases have been registered against journalists, accusing them of sedition and conspiracy over their reporting and tweets on the rally. The police also arrested freelancer Mandeep Punia for allegedly abusing police personnel.
On Monday, Twitter temporarily blocked dozens of accounts in India including those of Caravan magazine and of farmers protesting near the Capital. The action was taken reportedly on the government’s request. It later restored the accounts.
Overnight, the police started to erect concrete and steel barricades and razor wire cutting off the farmers’ protest site completely. In another sudden move, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation suspended Metro services at four stations from Brigadier Hoshiar Singh station in Bahadurgarh to Tikri in Delhi on Monday morning, reported The Tribune.
The section of the highway at the Singhu border, which is now manned with rows of security personnel, had also seen violence on Friday, when a group of around 200 people claiming to be local residents barged in, threw stones at farmers and damaged their tents. Fact-checking website Alt News identified Bharatiya Janata Party supporters among the mob.
Train carrying farmers diverted
Meanwhile, the Punjab Mail was diverted, while another train was short-terminated on Monday, prompting charges that it was done to prevent farmers from reaching Delhi to join the protests, reported PTI. The Railways maintained that the move was an operational necessity.
Unidentified officials told PTI that a group of farmers had boarded the Punjab Mail on Sunday night at Ferozepur in Punjab. They were to join others who have been protesting against the central laws at the Delhi borders.
The train, which travels via Delhi, was diverted from Rohtak in Haryana to Rewari, and further towards its Mumbai route.
Two other trains – Ganganagar Intercity and Bhatinda-Delhi Kisan Express – were also diverted, reported the Hindustan Times.
The action came after the Delhi Police wrote to the Northern Railways on Sunday, saying that farmers from Punjab and Haryana planned to protest in the Capital on Monday – when the Union budget was being presented – and hoist flags on Parliament House, the newspaper reported.