Train services were stopped at many places across the country on Thursday as a precautionary measure in view of the “rail roko” or the railway blockade to protest against the Centre’s farm laws, reported NDTV. Farmers squatted on the railway tracks at many places even as security was tightened with the deployment of the railway police and the state police.

Protestors held the countrywide agitation across various states, including Punjab, Harayana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Karnataka, reported The Indian Express. In Punjab, protestors blocked the railway tracks in Jalandhar and Mohali, reported PTI. They also blocked the Delhi-Ludhiana-Amritsar route. In Haryana, protesting farmers, including women, sat on rail tracks at various places, including Kurukshetra, Ambala, Panchkula, Panipat and Fatehabad (Bhattu Kalan) districts.

However, later in the day, the Railways said that the blockade caused minimal disruption of train services in majority of the zones, PTI reported. “Majority of the zones have reported not a single case of any stoppage of train by the agitators,” a spokesperson was quoted as saying. “Few trains were stopped in some areas of some Railway zones but now train operation is normal and trains are being operated smoothly. While dealing with the Rail roko agitation, utmost patience was exercised by all concerned.”

The protests

In Karnataka, farmers staged a protest at the Yeshwanthpur railway station in Bengaluru. “When we arrived at the railway station, we were not allowed to demonstrate rail roko by police here,” a farmer leader said. “Why should we wait for the police to give permission when it was nationally announced by farm unions?”

Workers of the Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik) staged a protest at the Patna railway station in solidarity with the farmers.

In Maharasthra, protests were held in Dahanu, Aurangabad and Parbhani districts, according to PTI. However, the protestors were detained and local train services were not affected for a long period.

“We staged a rail roko in Dahanu, Aurangabad and Parbhani,” said All India Kisan Sabha (Maharashtra) General Secretary Ajit Navale. “Our farmers were taken into police custody. We will continue such agitations till these laws are repealed.”

In Pune, several parties, including the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Aam Aadmi Party also staged protests.

Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said the government should not have misconceptions that the protests will end as farmers would go back for harvesting crops, reported ANI. “If they insisted, then we will burn our crops,” he said, speaking at Kharak Punia village in Haryana’s Hisar. “They shouldn’t think that protest will end in two months. We’ll harvest as well as protest.”

Meanwhile, entry and exit gates of four metro stations were closed in Delhi in view of the four-hour-long agitation. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation said that the Tikri Border, Pandit Shree Ram Sharma, Bahadurgarh City and Brigadier Hoshiar Singh metros were shut down.

Members of various farmer organisations block a railway track during a four-hour 'rail roko' demonstration across the country as part of the farmers' agitation against agriculture reform laws, at Modinagar station in Ghaziabad district on Thursday. [Image credit: PTI]

The rail blockade

The Kisan Ekta Morcha, a joint front representing the farmers protesting against the three new agricultural laws, had on February 10 announced the agitation. The railway blockade started at 12 pm and will end at 4 pm. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions, on Wednesday appealed for a peaceful protest. Railway unions, which had earlier supported the protests, also distanced themselves from the blockade.

The Railways had deployed 20 additional companies of the Railway Protection Special Force across the country ahead of the agitation. Railway Protection Force Director General Arun Kumar had appealed to everyone to maintain peace.

Earlier this month, the protesting farmers had observed a three-hour road blockade to push their demand for repeal of the three farm laws.