New Delhi: The Maharashtra police has attempted to scuttle the protest march of farmers, landless labourers and tribals from Nasik to Mumbai. Scheduled to begin at 4 pm on Wednesday, the police has denied permission for the march.
“We have allowed them to hold a sit-in protest, where they can use loudspeakers and give speeches. We have, however, denied them permission to hold a march,” Nasik city commissioner Ravinder Kumar Singhal told the Indian Express.
In a letter to the AIKS, R.R. Patil, assistant police commissioner Nasik, said that the protestors can be allowed to assemble at one place and protest in Nasik. But they will not be allowed to move towards Mumbai for the long march.
However, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) – the organiser of the march – remains undeterred. “The police may try to stop us. But, we will not stop. Thousands have gathered in Nasik and we will march to Mumbai. Our struggle cannot be stopped,” AIKS president Ashok Dhawale told The Wire.
According to the AIKS, the police has also stopped protestors who were supposed to join the march from Ahmednagar. “Thousands of people were supposed to join us in Nasik from Ahmednagar. But, they are not being allowed to move by the police,” said Dhawale.
Farmers raising slogans against the BJP government as they begin their march from Dindori to Nashik. The farmers have been demanding expedition in the process of providing land titles to landless farmers under the Forest Rights Act and improved agrarian policies.@IndianExpress pic.twitter.com/y69DWxCocz
— zeeshan shaikh (@zeeshansahafi) February 20, 2019
Ajit Nawale, AIKS state general secretary, was hopeful that the protestors from Ahmednagar will be able to join. “I am sure that they will be able to struggle with the police and join us in Nasik before the march begins,” he said.
According to the AIKS, the police also attempted to arrest Nawale. “We got to know that they will arrest Ajit Nawale before the march to disrupt the organising of the march. But, we ensured that they were not able to arrest him,” said Dhawale.
On February 13, Nawale was booked by the police while organising a convention in Ahmednagar. “Nawale and 100 others were planning to assemble without permission and there is a general order against assembling in large numbers in a public space without permission. They had not sought permission from the collector,” Local Intelligence Bureau officer Tanvir Shaikh had told The Wire.
Nawale has disputed this, arguing that the permissions were in place and the police wanted to stop the gathering. “It is clear that the government is worried about the march. There intention is to not allow the farmers to march from Nasik to Mumbai,” he said. “But, rest assured, the march will happen. If the police tries to stop us, we will resist and struggle.”
On Tuesday, the police had detained around 200 protestors in Dhule as they were leaving for Nasik. The group was led by the Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha, whose leaders were also detained. The leaders subsequently said that they have been reassured by the government and will not be joining the long march.
“The government has reassured us that our demands will be considered and met before February 24. So, we will wait till then,” Kishore Damle, leader of the Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha, told The Wire.