Protesting farmers held 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.
Farmer 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 took place for three hours from noon to 3 pm and remained largely peaceful. However, police detained protestors in some places, including around 50 of them in Delhi.
The protestors said emergency vehicles such as ambulances and school buses were allowed to move during the protest. Vehicles carrying essentials were also be allowed to pass. The protest was 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.
Punjab and Haryana
Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) General Secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan told NDTV they blocked roads at 33 places in 15 districts of Punjab, including Sangrur, Barnala and Bathinda. “Elders and youth have gathered here to participate in chakka jam,” a protestor at the Punjab-Haryana border near Ambala, told PTI. “It will be peaceful.”
In Haryana, farmers blocked the highway from Delhi at Kundli to Palwal, reported NDTV. The movement of ambulances and essential services has not been stopped. The Pathankot-Jammu Highway was also blocked.
The mood was celebratory at the Rewari-Alwar border, with visuals showing farmers beating drums and shouting slogans.
Even though farmers said that they will not enter Delhi on Saturday, the police in the Capital tightened security arrangements at the borders. Drones were arranged for an aerial view, and CCTV cameras have been installed in sensitive areas. The home ministry also suspended internet services for 24 hours at the protest sites in Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur and in adjoining 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.”
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.
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.”
Around 50 people were detained near Shaheedi Park in central Delhi for holding a demonstration in support of the “chakka jam”, PTI reported. “Preventive detentions were made in public interest wherever e had inputs of some possible incident,” Biswal told ANI. “Some people had reached Shaheedi Park. They were removed from the road so that traffic movement could resume.”
Senior police officers at Singhu said that they will not allow anyone to pass through the borders on Saturday. At Ghazipur border, local police 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.
At the Atoha village near the Delhi-Agra Highway, over 2,000 protestors gathered to participate in the protest, Palwal District Commissioner of Police Naresh Narwal told The Hindu.
In Rajasthan, too, protesters came out in large numbers and blocked the national highway near Shahjahanpur border.
Farmers in other towns of the state like Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Dholpur and Jhalawar, also blocked highways and main roads and held demonstrations, PTI reported, quoting police.
The situation escalated in Bengaluru, Karnataka, where the police detained protestors who were agitating outside the Yelahanka Police Station, reported ANI. Some detentions were made in Pune too, according to News18.
Farmer organisations in Jammu also staged protests, while a group of people who were agitating on a highway on the outskirts of Hyderabad, were removed by the police, according to ANI.