Protesting farmers began a countrywide chakka jam on Saturday to intensify their agitation against the new farm laws. The Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, a coalition of farmer unions, called for roads and national highways to be blocked throughout the nation except in Delhi and Uttarakhand.

Farm leaders also said they would not hold chakka jams in Uttar Pradesh since many farmers are busy with the harvest, according to The Indian Express. The agitation will take place for three hours from noon to 3 pm.

Entry and exit facilities at several Delhi metro stations were temporarily closed in view of the protests. This includes, Mandi House, ITO, Delhi Gate Lal Quila, Jama Masjid, Janpath, Khan Market, Nehru Place and Central Secretariat, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation said.

All farmer unions under the banner of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha will participate in the protest. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated farmers’ body, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, said that they would not support the chakka jam, alleging that the protests had become “political propaganda.”

Security beefed up

Even though the farmers have said they will not enter Delhi on Saturday, the police in the Capital have tightened security arrangements at the borders. Drones have been arranged for an aerial view, and CCTV cameras have been installed in sensitive areas.

“Police personnel are deployed at strategic locations such as Road number 56, NH-24, Vikas Marg, GT Road, Jirabad Road,” Joint Commissioner of Police Alok Kumar told ANI. “Barricading has been done in a way that there is no intrusion in Delhi.”

Kumar said the arrangements have been strengthened since January 26 to avoid any law and order situation. “We are hoping that it will be a peaceful situation,” he added.

On Friday, Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava held a meeting with senior police officers to review the law and order arrangements at Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri, reported PTI.

Delhi Police Public Relation Officer Chinmoy Biswal said that the police are also monitoring social media posts to keep a check on fake news and inflammatory content. “We want to make sure people don’t spread rumours,” he added. “We are also in touch with police from other states.”

Senior police officers at Singhu said that they will not allow anyone to pass through the borders on Saturday. At Ghazipur border, local police have moved some of the barricades to the Delhi side to stop entry for the public.

Saturday’s agitation will take place at a time when authorities have launched an unprecedented crackdown on the protestors, fortifying their protest sites with iron spikes and steel barricades to stop demonstrating farmers from entering the Capital. The government also restricted access to mobile internet services in these areas.

The clampdown started after a tractor procession in the city by farmers turned violent and chaotic, when a group of farmers veered from an agreed protest route and stormed into the Red Fort. At least one person died in what police said was a tractor accident. Hundreds of police officers and farmers were wounded.

Police complaints against farmer leaders followed, as did arrest of hundreds of protestors and registration of first information reports against journalists.

People stand next to police barricades along a blocked highway as farmers continue their protest in Ghaziabad. (Credit: Narinder Nanu/AFP)

Why are farmers holding a chakka jam today?

The protest is being held in response to the Centre’s handling of the farmers’ agitation as well as the budgetary allocations made this year for agriculture and allied sectors, which farmers say is dismal.

The Sanyukt Kisan Morcha gave the call for the road block on February 1, after the announcement of Union Budget 2021. Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav flagged that the government had not provided financial support to the Food Corporation of India in the new Budget.

The protesting farmers are also upset over restrictions on internet and power supply at the protest sites. Though the blockade was officially lifted on February 2, internet services at the protest sites continued to remain erratic throughout this week.

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