IANS & iNDICA NEWS BUREAU
Tens of thousands of farmers, protesting three new laws on agriculture passed recently by the Narendra Modi government, on Thursday braved teargas shells and water cannons in their march towards Delhi from Punjab.
The farmers fear that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system of government support for tillers, leaving them at the mercy of big corporate entities.
The government says the laws are meant to free farmers from the grip of middlemen, and are much needed reforms for the agriculture sector.
Several protesters and policemen were injured as the farmers broke police barricades on a bridge near the Punjab-Haryana border in Shambhu near Ambala.
The farmers threw the barricades off the bridge.
According to the All India Kisan Sabha, there are more than 50,000 farmers at the spot.
Bracing overnight rains and chilly winds, thousands of protesting farmers have assembled at various places along the Haryana-Punjab borders amid mounting tension.
They have been stopped by the Haryana police while heading towards the national capital for their ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest against the three new farm laws.
A huge contingent of police comprising the Rapid Action Force — specializing in mob control — has been deployed to deal with any untoward situation. They tried to evict farmers gathered since Wednesday evening.
Residents of several towns located along the Punjab-Haryana borders faced a harrowing time due to the heavy deployment of the security forces and snapping of the bus services in the past 24 hours.
Farmers have swarmed roads and other open spaces. Several link roads entering Haryana have also been barricaded.
Unfazed by the heavy security deployment and barricading on the highway with mounds of earth and huge rocks, a protesting farmer Gurdev Singh told the media at the Shambhu border near Ambala city: “We will break all the barricades if we were not allowed to move ahead.”
The protesting farmers said they were ready to face even bullets.
Section 144 of the CrPC, which prohibits public gatherings, has been imposed and the entire borders have been turned into a fortress.
A day earlier, farmers had major scuffles with the Haryana police who failed to stop them from proceeding further despite heavy deployment of men and use of water cannons.
The major scuffle between the farmers and the police broke out at the Shambhu border on the national highway when the farmers broke the blockades and managed to proceed to Delhi for staging a demonstration.
Despite the use of water cannons, the protesting farmers, — men and women, young and old — and school and college students riding tractor-trailers, cars and motorcycles managed to enter Haryana from Punjab.
They were later joined by thousands of their counterparts from Haryana, led by Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) state chief Gurnam Singh Charuni.
As they reached Kurukshetra district, the local farmers joined them.
“The police must release our activists and vehicles. We will march towards Delhi, breaking the barricades,” Charuni said.
The police had taken nearly 100 farmer leaders from Haryana into “preventive custody.”
As per police estimates, around 300,000 farmers from both the states are set to reach Delhi as part of their ‘Delhi Chalo’ agitation.
The farmers affiliated to 33 organizations are part of the United Farmers Front, an all-India body of over 470 farmers’ unions that has vowed participate in the indefinite protest in India’s national capital from November 26.
The protesting farmers have threatened to block all the roads leading to Delhi if they are denied the permission to travel towards the national capital.
Barred from entering Haryana, the leaders of farmers’ organizations announced that they will sit on ‘dharna’ at the Dabwali barrier between Bathinda and Sirsa districts for a week.
BKU (Ugrahan) President Joginder Ugrahan said: “If we are not allowed to cross Haryana and head towards Delhi on Thursday, our protest destination will be the border points for a week.”
The Delhi police have already asked the farmers not to enter Delhi as they don’t have permission to protest in the city.
The Haryana police too have issued a travel advisory, asking commuters to avoid certain national highways along the state borders with Punjab and Delhi in the wake of the protests.
The main points of the protesters originating from within Haryana will be the four major national highways leading towards Delhi — from Ambala, Hisar, Rewari and Palwal to Delhi.