After 61 days, which also saw eleven rounds of talks with the Centre over the Farm Laws, farmers from across the country will take out a massive tractor rally on January 26, Republic Day, in three routes around Delhi.
Lakhs of farmers will be present in the rally on Tuesday with farmers making their way to the capital amid tight security arrangements in and around the Delhi NCR region.
After four rounds of talks with the police, the last on Friday, the police on Sunday said the farmers’ proposed tractor rally will start after the Republic Day celebrations have ended in New Delhi.
The rally will be held from Delhi's three border points – Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur – and adequate security will be provided to it, police said. Authorities in Haryana have also issued advisories against unnecessary travel towards Delhi over the next couple of days. The Haryana Police said there would be disruptions in vehicular movement on the national highway from Karnal and Rohtak towards Delhi between January 25 and 27.
Thousands of tractors were seen on the highways in Haryana heading towards Delhi. A group of 500 tractors-trolleys left Amritsar and several others batches from Phagwara, Hoshiarpur and other places of Punjab also moved towards the national capital to take part in the tractor parade, farmer leaders said.
Kisan Sangharsh Union leader Baldev Singh Verka in Amritsar said: “Today as many as 500 more tractor trolleys left for Delhi to join the tractor parade.
“Each tractor-trolley will carry 20 persons along with bedding and meal arrangement for the fourteen-hour-long journey to Delhi”. On Saturday, he had said around seven hundred tractor trolleys had left for Delhi.
Gurbachan Singh Chabba, spokesperson of the Kisan Sangarsh Committee said so far, around 12,000 tractors had already left Amritsar and Tarn districts. Meanwhile, farmer leaders appealed to those participating in the Republic Day tractor march to carry enough ration for 24 hours and ensure that the rally remains peaceful.
The Times of India reported that on NH-44 between Ambala and Sonipat in Haryana, “there was tractors as far as the eye could travel.” Close to 6,000 tractors from Jind alone – more than 500 of them being helmed by women – reached the Tikri Border on Sunday. Close to 5,000 were reportedly moving with payloaders to remove police blockades and were on their way from Jaisinghpur Khera.
A farmer leader from Kandela in Shamli told the newspaper that 2,000 tractors were on their way from his khap alone and that thousands were reaching from other khaps. Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Madhya Pradesh chief Anil Yadav said that over 50,000 farmers from the state were in Delhi for the tractor parade.
In Mumbai, which has become another hub of protests, thousands of farmers and labourers from across the state reached Azad Maidan on Sunday evening. They were met with massive support from people on their way to the state capital.
News agency ANI reported that Aam Aadmi Party’s MLAs will move towards Delhi today from Shambu at Punjab-Haryana border on tractors to support the tractor parade, the party’s Punjab unit said.
Those beginning the rally from the Singhu Border will traverse Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar, Bawana, Qutabgarh, Auchandi border and Kharkhoda toll plaza. The entire route will be 63 kilometers long. The 62-km long second route, starting from the Tikri Border, will pass through Nagloi, Najafgarh, Jharoda border and Rohtak bypass and Asoda toll plaza.
Tractors starting from the Ghazipur Border will drive through Apsara border, Hapur road and Lal Kuan. Covering 68 kilometers, it is the longest route for the march. The farmer leaders will be at the front in their cars. All vehicles will have to return to the originating place. No one will try and stop midway without a valid reason, the farmer leaders said.
Each tractor will carry a tricolour with folk music and patriotic songs playing. Only five people per tractor will be allowed and a strict vigil is being maintained to ensure nothing untoward takes place, they said. “You are requested to carry jackets and blankets considering the weather. Everyone has to return to the starting point (their base),” one of the leaders said. Farmer leaders said the tractor parade will remain peaceful and will not affect the official Republic Day parade in any way.
A control room has been set up at each protest site to ensure effective coordination during the parade. There will be 40 members, including doctors, security personnel and social media managers, in each of these rooms, a Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) member said. Around 40 ambulances will be stationed along the route to attend to any medical emergency. Another farmer leader said around 3,000 volunteers have been deployed to ensure that the parade remains peaceful. The volunteers have been given badges and identity cards.
A team of ex-servicemen participating in the protest will also keep an eye on the security situation. A team of mechanics has also been created to repair tractors if the need arises.
Earlier, the Ghazipur police withdrew orders issued by two police stations – Suhwal and Saidpur – asking petrol pumps to stop selling or giving fuel to tractors. “In view of the possibility of farmers taking out tractor rallies, a ban is imposed on movement of tractors. You are directed to stop giving oil to tractors, in drums or containers from January 22 till 26…,” the order by the Suhwal police station had said, according to IANS. The Saidpur police had banned tractor movement on the highway till January 26.
“We are going to create history. Till date, such a parade has never been carried in the country on Republic Day. We have to keep in mind that this historic parade doesn't gets maligned. The peaceful parade will mark our victory. We have to remember that we are not going to conquer Delhi, rather we are going to win the hearts of the people of the country,” the SKM had said on Sunday.
Since November 26, farmers – initially largely from Punjab and Haryana, soon joined by those from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh Rajasthan, Odisha and Kerala and different parts of the country – have been camping at five border points outside Delhi demanding a repeal of the Farm Laws.
Passed in September last year, the three laws – the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 – have been stridently opposed by the farmers, who have called them “anti-farmer” and “pro-corporate”.
They have said that they will settle for nothing less than their repeal and that a minimum support price (MSP) for their produce be mandated by law. Protests have been ongoing across the country.