Farmer leaders were apprehended by police in at least two cities on Friday during an all-India strike or Bharat Bandh. The call for the strike was given by Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmer unions, which is spearheading the protest against the Centre’s agricultural laws.
Bharatiya Kisan Union General Secretary Yudhvir Singh was picked up by the police in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad city as he was addressing a press conference, reported the Deccan Herald.
In a video of the incident, police can be seen taking him away, even as he was interacting with reporters. “This is wrong, this is dictatorship...it is not a crime to speak to the Press,” Singh told reporters. “It is our right, everyone is free to express their views.”
As he was being taken away from the press conference, Singh said that even “hardcore criminals” are not treated the way police was detaining him. The police, meanwhile, said that the farmer leaders did not have permission to hold the press conference, according to the Deccan Herald.
National media in-charge of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, Dharmendra Malik, tweeted that Singh was arrested and taken to Shahi Bagh Stadium in Ahmedabad. “In Gujarat, farmers are being stopped even from speaking,” Malik wrote. “Farmers condemn this act. We shall fight, we shall win.”
Farmer leaders were detained in Karnataka’s capital Bengaluru as well, when they were protesting during the countrywide shutdown in Town Hall. Activist Kavitha Kuruganti, one of the protestors who was detained, tweeted a video of the police action.
“We have prices falling for farmers, we have the fact that trade has moved out of mandis,” Kuruganti said. “Instead of repealing the laws the [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi government is using the state government for arresting people.”
Earlier, Kuruganti tweeted photos of the protestors, including farmer leader Kodihalli Chandrashekar inside police vans.
The 12-hour shutdown on Friday will be in force till 6 pm across the country, according to Samyukta Kisan Morcha. The bandh marks four months of the farmers’ agitation at Delhi’s three borders – Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri.
Thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi since November, demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeal the three laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies. Farmers fear the policies will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime.