The bandh call, from 6 a.m to 6 p.m, was given by SKM to mark four months of the farmers’ agitation demanding repeal of the three farm laws and seeking legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) for all crops and a stop to corporatisation of agriculture.
While the protesters blocked major highways and rail tracks, the markets, shopping malls and other institutions were voluntarily closed by the traders. Transporters and different trading associations too joined the shutdown in protest of rising diesel, petrol and LPG prices. While the shutdown remained peaceful, the farmers’ leaders were detained and rounded up in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka.
The agitation, which has taken the shape of a sit-in by thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttra Pradesh on Delhi’s borders -- Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur -- has so far seen the death of over 300 farmers.
Samyukta Kisan Morcha -a collective of farmers’ organisations- said many leaders from the front were arrested by Karnataka Police in Bengaluru and Gulbarga. Dr Darshan Pal from Morcha said that Kavita Kuruganti, Kodihalli Chandrasekhar, Bayareddy were arrested in Bengaluru when they tried to protest near Town Hall in the city.
Similarly, Gujarat Police detained Bharatiya Kisan Union (Tikait) leader Yudhveer Singh in Ahmedabad when he was addressing a press conference about the proposed mahapanchayats in the state. Commenting on the detention, Singh said that it showed the real face of the ‘Gujarat Model’ where nobody enjoyed freedom of speech.
Mukut Singh, General Secretary, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Uttar Pradesh was put under house arrest by the police in the morning. Talking to NewsClick, he said,” the UP administration led by CM Yogi Adityanath is trying to kill the democracy in the state. They are frightened by the farmers’ protests and have been implementing measures to contain the anger. First, they prohibited protests and assemblies on account of corona. Now, they have issued notification for panchayat elections. Overall, the bandh remained successful with impact being felt in 65 districts..”
Chhagan Lal Chaudhary, Secretary, AIKS Rajasthan told NewsClick that the bandh was successfully observed in Churu, Sikar, Jhunjhanu, Nagaur, Bikaner and other adjoining districts. “We have already freed the toll plazas in these districts. So, the farmers who are staging protest at these plazas stopped the traffic completely. We had also organised Mahapanchayats in Karauli, Dungarpur, Kota where farmers too joined the protest. Now, it is the ego of PM Modi which is stopping the government from finding any resolution. The farmers unitedly delivered their message today loud and clear.”
Roop Singh from Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta Ugrahan, the biggest farmers’ organisation in Punjab, said that the amount of people hitting the streets surpassed their expectations.
Talking to NewsClick, he said: “The people of entire state gave their message by coming on streets. All districts and areas, you name it, be it Mansa, Barnala, Bhikhi, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Pathankot, Fatehgarh Sahib, all were deserted. I was travelling in an ambulance to Delhi and saw this unity everywhere.”
When asked if the bandh would clear passage for resumption of suspended talks between farmers and the government, he said: ”I think it should resume because the anger among people against this arrogance is only growing. For how long, can you suppress their voices.”
The impact of the bandh was also seen Jammu and Kashmir where JK Kisan Tehrik held demonstrations across the region. While addressing the protest demonstration in Jammu, CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that these anti-farmer and anti-poor agri-laws passed in Parliament in a brazen manner without any consultation, debate and discussion, is bound to destroy the agriculture sector and threaten India’s food security.
“The government is surprised by the determination and resolve of the kisan protestors as they find it hard to see where does it emanate from? For kisans it is question of their identity. What they fear is the loss of their whole way of life, of their land and their hounor. The ‘rosy’ picture presented by the BJP government, cannot mislead them. They understand that whole purpose of these arbitrary laws is handing over their land and crop to corporate houses and taking orders what to grow and how to grow and selling the produce at dictated prices, thereby reducing them to the level of tenants on their own land” added Tarigami.
Ravi Kaushal in Delhi
Punjab: Highways, Toll Plazas, Rail Tracks Blocked
In Punjab, farmers gathered at key protest sites including toll plazas, petrol pumps, railways tracks and several national highways. Shops, malls, markets, industries and other institutions remained closed.
As the broader concern of three “controversial” farm laws in the backdrop, farmers have also gathered to object against electricity Bill and four labour codes.
In Bathinda, farmers protested in three major locations including Rampur-Bathinda toll plaza, Bathinda railway station, Best Price, among others. Speaking to NewsClick, Tabinder Singh, 32, said, “We will keep protesting until these farm laws are repealed. The entire Punjab is shut today. This is a clear message to the Centre and the Punjab government that we are not going to back out.”
Roads and highways were blocked across Punjab including Ludhiana, Moga, Hoshiarpur, Jalandar, Patiala, Bathinda among others.
Pathankot district of Punjab, which is majorly a Hindu belt area with majority BJP supporters, didn’t witness a complete shutdown, but there were rumblings against the Centre’s handling of the farmers’ movement.
“This is significant considering Pathankot is a Hindu belt area and has majority of BJP supporters. Bandh observed at the highways exhibits the brewing discontent even in the Hindu belt area who are waking up of the farmers struggle,” said a protestor requesting anonymity.
Highways including Amristar-Pathankot Pathankot-Jalandar, Pathankot-Jammu, Pathankot- Himachal national highways were closed with a trail of tractors and farmers lined up.
Political commentators said that generally in urban areas like Chandigarh and others, the bandh is not observed to the fullest but what is significant is that the entry points are closed, so there is no movement.
In Ludhiana, which is the largest industrial hub, industries were forced to shut down as labourers didn’t attend to work. The sentiment in favour of the farmers’ movement was also visible among industrialists.
“Industries never like to shut down unless it is enforced of them but that doesn’t means that we are not with the farmers. We are in full support of the farmers but not with the call of shutdown as it affects our business. Major industries are closed today,” said Pankaj Sharma, Chamber of Industrial and Commerce Undertakings (CICU), Ludhiana.
In Patiala, near New Moti Bagh, farmers protestsed in front of the residence of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, alleging that her was “hand-in-glove” with the Centre.
Speaking to Newsclick, Harban Singh Madi, a farmer, said: “Our protest is not only against Centre but also against the Punjab government who is giving measly compensation to farmers who will be displaced by the government projects”, while referring to NHAI’s Delhi-Katra and Jamnagar expressway project.
UP: Many Leaders Placed Under House Arrest
In Uttar Pradesh, several farmer leaders were put under house arrest, even as protest action was more visible in the sugarcane belt in the western region of the state.
Members of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) blocked roads in Muzaffarnagar as part of the 12-hour bandh, including the Delhi-Saharanpur National Highway and Muzaffarnagar-Deoband Road.
A group of farmers under the banner of BKU along with All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) also blocked the Delhi-Yamunotri highway with tractor trolleys .
To prevent farmers from participating in Bharat Bandh, scores of farmer leaders were put under “house arrest” on Thursday evening, a day before the shutdown.
Mukut Singh, secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Kisan Sabha (UPKS) was briefly put under house arrest in Etawah around 7 in the evening. Singh has been at the forefront of the protests.
“The UP police came to my house around 10:30 p.m on Thursday night and threatened me not to participate in Bharat Bandh. The next morning, police officials barged into my house and parked their van outside my house to prevent me from going outside. The cops said it was is a “precautionary” measure, and they will be here until the Bharat Bandh call gets over at 6 p.m. today,” Singh told NewscCick, adding that a dozen of farmers and leaders associated with UPKS were put under house arrest.
However, the UPKS secretary said he managed to step out and join the farmers’s protest.
"Both Modi and Yogi government are scared of farmers as our movement is still alive and gaining momentum despite they (government)forcibly preventing the movement of farmers,” he added.
Recently, the UPKS held a five-day ‘padayatra’ from Mathura the Palwal border in Haryana to mark the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.
Another farmer leader, Shyam Singh Chahar from Agra, said he was also detained at his residence. "The Agra police came to my house around 3 a.m in the night and left my house after 12 hours. They did not let me go outside," Chahar told Newsclick.
At least 20 farmers and activists of CPI(ML), protesting in Sikanderpur area of Ballia were taken into custody.
The state government had made heavy deployment of police on all major roads and highways to ensure that the Bharat Bandh call was not forcibly implemented. Strict checks of vehicles at district borders are being conducted by police.
Abdul Alim Jafri from Lucknow
MP: Bandh Lasts 4-5 Hours in 6 Districts
Donning white kurtas with flags and sloganeering to repeal all three farm laws, farmers in nearly six districts of Madhya Pradesh carried out rallies and urged locals to support the Bharat Bandh.
In Gwalior, Bhind, Morena, Rewa, Satna and Raisen shops were closed for the first four-five hours and rallies were carried out by the farmer outfits. While in cities like Mau, Jabalpur, Narsingpur, Anuppur, Guna, Neemuch and Hoshangabad, the Bharat Bandh was partially observed.
Except for the few districts, the Bandh which was backed by the Opposition parties, including Congress and trade unions, did not make much impact, except on shops, which were closed.
“The Bharat Bandh was observed in Gwalior, Bhind, Morena and Rewa where shops remained closed and workers supported the bandh,” said Badal Saroj, AIKS leader, adding that “ in nearly half a dozen districts, the bandh was partially observed.”
Convenor of Jagrit Kisan Sanghatan, Irfan Jafri, said, “The bandh was successful in Raisen district”.
Asked about the minimal impact of the bandh in MP , Jafri said this was because harvesting and preserving of wheat, chana and sarson was on its last leg.
“Majority of the farmers are busy in their fields. Besides, owing to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the state, strict restrictions were imposed in all districts, including Section 144.”
Kashif Kakvi from Bhopal
Shutdown in AP, Mixed Response in Telangana
Andhra Pradesh witnessed a complete shutdown on Friday as hundreds of organisations supported the Bharat Bandh called by SKM. In neighbouring Telangana, the bandh was successful in majority of the district headquarters and mandals, except in cities, including Hyderabad.
In Andhra Pradesh, farmers, trade unionists, members of the Left parties blocked roads and appealed to the shopkeepers and small traders to voluntarily shut down their daily activities. Schools, shopping malls, cinema halls and major markets remained closed.
Besides repeal of farm laws, the protestors are also demanding withdrawal of the Electricity (amendment) bill and the four labour codes and end to privatisation of Vizag Steel Plant and other PSUs.
This was the second state-wide bandh in Andhra Pradesh in March after trade unions and political parties observed one against the privatisation of Vizag Steel Plant.
As the ruling YSRCP-led state government extended support to the bandh, members of political parties including YSRCP, Telugu Desam Party, CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML), Congress have joined the bandh against the policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government.
In both the Telugu states, the bandh was supported by farmers unions, agriculture workers unions, CITU, AITUC, UTF, DYFI, SFI, Kula Vivaksha Porata Samithi (KVPS), students organisations and civil society organisations.
“Although normalcy was hit, citizens have cooperated and participated in the protest demonstrations,” said K Uma Maheshwara Rao, leader of Municipal Workers in Andhra Pradesh. He said the protestors ensured that the emergency medical services remain uninterrupted.
In Telangana, massive rallies were held in all district headquarters.
“Ahead of the bandh, Telangana police put under house arrest several Left party leaders in the morning. In Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts, the police personnel detained the protesters who were blocking roads and protesting in front of the bus depots,” said T Sagar, General Secretary of Telangana Rythu Sangham.
While there was little impact of the Bandh in Hyderabad, Left parties and farmers organisations held a massive rally in the state capital.
“During the nation-wide bandh on December 8 against the farm laws, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) Party has supported the protests and their ministers even participated in the road blockades. But now, the TRS leaders and the Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao are remaining silent on the burning issue,” said Ravi Kumar of CPI(M). He demanded that the state government comes out clear on its stand on the farmers movement.
According to farmers’ organisations, the bandh was a complete success in Khammam and Bhadradri- Kothagudem districts in Telangana while normalcy was hit in other parts of the state.
Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam saw a complete shutdown in its urban and rural areas. The relay hunger strike by the Vishaka Ukku Parirakshana Porata Samithi continued on its 43rd day on Friday.
Prudhviraj Rupawath from Hyderabad