New Delhi: Workers under the watch of police personnel on Monday hooked iron rods between two rows of cement barriers on a flank of the main highway at the Singhu border to further restrict the movement of protesters agitating against the new farm laws at the site.
Another portion of the highway at the Delhi-Haryana border is practically blocked now as a makeshift cement wall has come up there.
A worker drilling rods in cross-formation between two rows of solid barriers in the afternoon, said, “The other flank was done yesterday. Cement is to be poured in the space between the barriers on this flank to make a makeshift wall”.
On Monday, the Delhi side of the Singhu border saw a sparse crowd of protesters while the Haryana side was dominated by vociferous speeches denouncing the new farm laws and clarion calls to infuse a new sense of solidarity in the agitation after the Republic Day incident.
Security personnel from the paramilitary forces, RAF and CRPF, were seen in relatively less numbers compared to the past few days but a large number of police personnel manned the stretch spanking a mile from the protest site.
Besides the makeshift wall on the highway, a small trench was also dug up earlier across an inner street a little off the highway and cement barricades put up on both the sides.
The protesting farmers and leaders at a tent, however, showed no signs of being cowed down and asserted that “these barricades put up around us can’t cage our spirit”.
All of them alleged that on January 26, “a conspiracy was made to malign this movement” and “defame it”, and more such attempts are being made while asserting that the agitation has “come out stronger” now.
Jashandeep Singh, 28, a resident of Mohali, who left his private job, and wife and one-year-old daughter behind in his hometown, to join the movement at Singhu Border, from its early days, said, “We are not retreating an inch”.
“If they think, we will get intimidated by these force tactics, then they are mistaken. We are warriors, and our fight is for everyone, and for the future generations of this country. And, they may make cement walls, but no wall is high for our free spirit. This movement is not a flood that can be checked with a dam. It’s a tsunami, no walls can stop it,” he said.
In the evening, cement was poured into a section of the double-sided solid barricade, even as a group of youth from the families of farmers, stood huddled around right next to the barricade on the other side.
“They are making a wall to stop the farmers, and that too with the taxpayers’ money. Is the media listening,” screamed one of the youths from the crowd as police officials and personnel watched from the Delhi side of border.
Earlier in the day, Balwinder Singh Sirsa, a farmer leader from Sirsa, Haryana, while addressing farmers, exhorted them to not get demotivated by what happened on January 26 as it was “orchestrated by some people to denigrate the movement”.
A woman protester from Haryana, addressing a huge gathering from the dais, said the alleged conspiracy on that day has “failed to weaken this movement” and has rather injected “a new lease of life” in it.
Randhir Singh, 85, a farmer from Haryana, also addressed the gathering saying “I have worked with legends Mahendra Singh Tikait and I know how Jat movement was weakened few years ago”. “What happened on January 26 was a conspiracy. It was not done by farmers but all was part of a smear campaign bring run to defame the movement,” he alleged.
“We are not terrorists or Khalistani. We are fighting for our rights. Attempts are still being made to defame and weaken us. But Tikait’s tears have awakened the farmers of Haryana, UP, and other states,” he said.
A train diverted
The Punjab Mail was diverted while another train was short-terminated on Monday, prompting charges that it was done to prevent farmers from reaching Delhi to join the protests, even as the Railways said the move was an operational necessity.
Sources told PTI that a group of farmers had boarded the Punjab Mail last night at Ferozepur (in Punjab) and they were to join others who have been protesting against the Central laws at the Delhi borders.
The train, which travels via Delhi, was diverted from Rohtak (in Haryana) to Rewari, and further towards its Mumbai route.
“The train was diverted because of operational reasons,” a Northern Railways spokesperson said.
Another train travelling from Ganganagar in Rajasthan to Old Delhi, via places in Punjab and Haryana, was short-terminated at Bahadurgarh (Haryana).
The Punjab Mail has around a 20-minute halt In Delhi. Starting from Ferozepur in Punjab, the train enters Delhi from Rohtak. New Delhi is the next stop. On Monday, it was rerouted via Rewari in Haryana and then further westward to take the route to Mumbai.
A chakka jam on February 6
Farmers’ unions on Monday announced a countrywide ‘chakka jam’ on February 6, when they would block national and state highways for three hours in protest against the internet ban in areas near their agitation sites, harassment allegedly meted out to them by authorities, and other issues.
Union leaders told a press conference at the Singhu Border, on the Haryana side, that they will block the roads between 12 pm to 3 pm on February 6.
They also alleged that farmers have been “ignored” in the Union Budget 2021-22, and water and power supply have been curtailed, and mobile toilet blocks being removed, at their protest venues.
The Samkyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of protesting unions, also alleged that the Twitter accounts of Kisan Ekta Morcha and a user named ‘Tractor2Twitter’ have been restricted.
Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav alleged the action against the Twitter account was taken on the “request of government authorities”, adding accounts of some private individuals, who have been very vocal against the movement, have also been restricted.
He also claimed that the Union government has “reduced the allocation to agriculture sector” in this budget.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, a farmer leader from Punjab, and part of the SKM, told reporters that the modalities of the ‘Chakka Jam’ on February 6 will be decided after discussing it with various unions unanimously, including those protesting at Ghazipur border site, the new focal point of the farmers movement against the new farm laws.
Rajewal claimed during the press conference that scores of people have been “detained by the police” besides FIRs filed against many, including a journalist. “Our February 6 protest would also be against this harassment faced by journalists who are trying to report the truth from the ground, and the Twitter restrictions,” he said.
Mahapanchayats continue to organise against farm laws
A farmers’ mahapanchayat in Bijnor, the fourth such congregation in western Uttar Pradesh in as many days, on Monday resolved to relocate smaller protests in the region to Ghazipur. Thousands of farmers and locals from Bijnor and surrounding areas started pouring in at ITI Ground on tractors and other vehicles for the mahapanchayat, which started at 11 am with several regional farmer leaders in attendance.
Bharatiya Kisan Union national president Naresh Tikait, whose union is protesting at Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border for over two months now, was said to be attending the ‘Kisaan Samman mahapanchayat’, according to ‘munaadis’ (beat of drums for public announcements) done in several villages and towns preceding the event.
Although he skipped the event, his son and BKU youth wing president Gaurav Tikait attended the mahapanchayats convened after similar ones in Muzaffarnagar, Mathura and Baghpat districts over the past three days, with each such congregation witnessing a turnout of thousands of people and resolving to extend support to the ongoing stir at the Delhi borders.
Gaurav Tikait said the agitation will continue till the ‘problem’ with the agricultural laws is solved, adding that the stir will be made more powerful. Reiterating his union’s stance, Tikait said the Centre “should not make rollback of the new agricultural laws a question of its dignity” as he also warned it against using force to crush the farmers’ movement. He called upon all the farmers staging demonstrations against the contentious laws in western Uttar Pradesh to reach Ghazipur and give strength to the movement.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at the Delhi borders, demanding a rollback of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed the apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporations.
(With PTI inputs)