CHANDIGARH: Tens of thousands of farmers on Thursday practically rose up in arms as they braved tear-gas shells and water cannons, managed to break police barricades at several places in Haryana while heading to the national capital to lodge their protest over the Centre’s farm laws.
Several protesters and policemen were injured.
The farmers broke barricades and threw them down the bridge ahead of the Punjab-Haryana border in Shambhu near Ambala.
According to official estimates, there are over 50,000 farmers heading towards Delhi.
Bracing overnight rains and chilly winds, thousands of protesting farmers assembled at various places along the Haryana-Punjab borders amid mounting tension.
They were stopped by the Haryana Police while heading towards the national capital for their ‘Dilli Chalo’ protest.
Thousands of farmers have been staging sit-in protest towards Punjab ahead of the Dabwali barrier between Bathinda and Sirsa districts and at Khanauri border in Sangrur district, awaiting the decision by their leaders to move towards Delhi.
While activists of the Bharti Kisan Union Ekta-Ugrahan and Sidhupur factions have been camping on the border at Khanauri and Moonak, respectively, since Wednesday evening, other farmer unions have changed their plans and decided to head for Delhi from other entry points.
BKU (Ugrahan) President Joginder Ugrahan said, “If we are not allowed to cross Haryana and head towards Delhi, our protest destination will be the border points for a week.”
A huge contingent of police comprising the Rapid Action Force has been deployed at all entry points in Haryana to deal with any untoward situation.
Residents of several towns located along the Punjab-Haryana borders throughout the day 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, “We will break all the barricades if we were not allowed to move ahead.”
Farmers said they were ready to face even the bullets.
Section 144 of the CrPC has been imposed and the entire borders have been turned into a fortress.
Earlier in the day, despite the use of water cannons, the protesting farmers, comprising men and women — both young and old — and school and college students riding tractor-trailers, cars and motorcycles, managed to enter Haryana from Punjab near Shambhu in Patiala district.
Angry farmers threw stones at security forces deployed to control the crowd at the Shambhu border.
They were later joined by thousands of their counterparts from Haryana.
As they reached Kurukshetra district, the local farmers joined them.
As per the police estimates, around 3,00,000 farmers from both the states are set to reach Delhi.
The farmers affiliated to 33 organisations are part of the United Farmers Front, an all-India body of over 470 farmers’ unions that will participate in the indefinite protest in the national capital from November 26.
Appealing to the agitating farmers, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said, “Will leave politics if there’s trouble on MSP (minimum support price).”
He blamed his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh to astop inciting the farmers’.
Reacting to his accusations, Amarinder Singh replied on twitter by saying, “Shocked at your response. It’s the farmers who’ve to be convinced on MSP, not me. You should’ve tried to talk to them before their ‘Dilli Chalo’. And if you think I’m inciting farmers then why are Haryana farmers also marching to Delhi?”
Former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal said, “Today is Punjab’s 26/11. We are witnessing the end of the right to democratic protest. The Akali Dal condemns the Haryana government the Centre for choosing to repress the peaceful farmer movement.”
He said the battle for the rights of Punjab farmers cannot be throttled by using water cannons against them.
Supporting the protest by farmers, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the peaceful demonstration was a constitutional right of the farmers.
The Delhi Police has already asked the farmers not to enter Delhi as they don’t have permission to protest in the city.
Farmers protesting against the farm laws have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the ‘mercy’ of big corporate entities.