Thousands of farmers with modified tractors carrying rations, woollens, essential items, braving the chilly winter evening protesting against the Centre’s new farm laws, reached closer to Delhi, undeterred by police barricades, tear gas and water cannons. “More than 50,000 farmers will be standing at the Delhi border on Thursday evening,” two farmers’ bodies claimed.
The day has been replete with clashes. On one occasion, the protesters even pitched the yellow iron barricades into the river while trying to cross a bridge.
Leaders in Punjab and Haryana, meanwhile, carried on a political tussle. While the BJP accuses the Congress of brainwashing farmers for its own interests, the Congress hitting back with sharp questions.
The police have stopped thousands of farmers as they tried to march to the Indian capital as part of their Dilli Chalo (Go to Delhi) protest against the new legislation. They say the BJP government’s Bills will curb their earnings and benefit big corporations.
Police in Haryana used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the farmers who tried to march towards New Delhi.
At one site, the farmers retaliated by throwing bricks and pushing aside barricades.
After a two-hour stand-off, police eventually allowed the marchers to continue towards the capital.
Delhi borders sealed, metro services shut down
The police have sealed the borders of the national capital and shut down the metro services in several areas. As they say that no rallies are allowed in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
“If the government doesn’t want farmers to protest amid the corona pandemic why can’t it say that it will withdraw the laws for six months or until the pandemic is over,“ Jagmohan Singh, farmer leader from Punjab said.
“We will not call off our protest unless the government scraps these anti-farmer laws.”
Darshan Pal of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) and Punjab president of Krantikari Kisan Union, said thousands of farmers have gathered on the Haryana-Punjab border. But, he said, the police have put up barricades and stopped the farmers from marching to New Delhi.
Pal claimed 3,00,000 farmers are expected to reach New Delhi on tractors, buses and on foot. They have set off from the state of Punjab.
“The government have actually opened the markets, open the land and open the commodities of the farmers for the big corporate houses. Now the corporate houses will form the mandis (agricultural markets) and will get the contract farming done. And they will control the agribusiness.
“Our basic demand is to scrap all these anti-farm laws and assure the Minimum Support Price (MSP) [the price at which the government buys farm produce] as recommended for all the crops and assured marketing guarantee for all the crops.”
Laws to benefit big corporates: BKUE
Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta Punjab general secretary Sukhdev Singh accused the government of passing the laws “to benefit big corporates”.
“The government didn’t find it worthy or important taking us onboard before bringing these black laws,” he said.
Farmers have been protesting since September against the new farm laws, especially in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana.
Several farmer organisations have joined with other trade unions in New Delhi. Protesters from other states including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Kerala also reaching Delhi. They say that the BJP government and its policies are against the farmers and against the workers.
Farmer groups from five states, including the AIKSCC, had called for the march.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh condemned Haryana government for attempting to forcibly prevent thousands of farmers from marching. Delhi’s local government has also condemned the police action against farmers.
The BJP, which also governs Haryana, says the laws will free farmers from traditional middlemen who dominate the trade. The party accused the opposition Congress party, which governs Punjab state, of misleading the farmers.