Shahjahanpur/Alwar: More police personnel than farmers – a rare sight in the recent agitation against the controversial Farm Laws – were seen at the Rajasthan-Haryana border here on Saturday. As of Saturday evening, two factions of farmers from Rajasthan, with more expected by nightfall, turned up to join the march in response to the call for “blocking” the Delhi-Jaipur expressway.
Riding high on to the claimed success of the Bharat Bandh, which left no corner untouched across the nation earlier this week, the umbrella body of farmers collectives – Kisan Samyukt Morcha – had asked its constituents to intensify protests by shutting down more gates to the national capital. Apparently, the call was also made to ensure that the Centre continues to remain ‘under pressure’, after several rounds of talks with the government has failed to make any breakthrough so far.
The Haryana police has stopped the farmers on NH-8, which connects Rajasthan to Delhi via the state, close to the Rajasthan border. And while the state government’s police has tried to fine-tune its tactics, putting a halt to the march far away from Delhi was what it tried to do the last time as well, and failed.
Sanjay Madhav, state convenor of the coordination committee in Rajasthan, laid bare the situation in his state. “Farmers from different villages here will assemble by tonight in Kotputli and Behror. We are expecting to see participation in thousands from across the state,” he said over the phone from somewhere near Jaipur, where he was leading “one among the many” farmers’ caravans.
A tractor showcasing the demands of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, a Rajasthan-based farmers’ body here at Delhi-Jaipur highway. Picture clicked by Ronak Chhabra
Madhav, who is also the joint secretary of All India Kisan Sabha’s Rajasthan unit, reiterated that they all want to join the farmers who are already protesting at the outskirts of the national capital. “We are also coming prepared to stay put for months, with food, clothes and other essentials,” he added.
Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav, who visited the Rajasthan-Haryana state border this morning, told NewsClick that farmers are being mobilised for the march to the national (on December 13) from Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Nagau, Hanumangarh, Ganganagar and Churu district in Rajasthan, among others.
They will be joined tomorrow by those coming mainly from South Haryana districts such as Rewari, Narnaul, Bhiwani, Mewat and Sohana, he added.
Meanwhile, as the day passed and evening approached, the mercury level took a sharp dip , possibly due to the rather heavy rain on Saturday morning. The farmers, camping at the borders, though short in numbers for now, remained determined to stay put.
Thousands of farmers are already camping at least at four interstate entry-exit points to the city – Singhu, Tikri, Chilla and Ghazipur – connecting Delhi to Ambala, Hisar, Noida and Ghaziabad respectively.
However, to ensure that one more interstate highway, NH 8, which connects Delhi to Rajasthan through Haryana, joins the list on Saturday, didn’t turn out to be an easy job.
By afternoon, traffic movement on the expressway remained less affected, if not completely smooth, even as multiple strategic points throughout the route saw stationed Haryana police personnel. At the state borders, which has Rewari district on Haryana’s side and Alwar district on Rajasthan’s, leaders belonging to the two groups – Rashtriya Kisan Mahasabha (RKM) and Kisan Mahapanchayat – claimed that more farmers were to join them by Saturday night. As part of an “updated” plan, they say they will all now begin with their rally to the national capital on December 13, and will stay put “indefinitely” wherever they are stopped by the police.
In a changed strategy to stop the farmers’ march, small batches of police personnels, with more forces kept at stand by, were deployed at multiple strategic points this time. Image clicked at near ITI Manesar by Ronak Chhabra
“We started from our respective villages today for Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, where we had planned to protest against the passage of the kaale kanoon (black laws),” B.L. Kudi, national president, RKM said. However, the organisation was stopped at the border.
“The Haryana police is saying that we are not allowed to continue with our rally. We shall wait tonight for more farmers to join us, who are being mobilised from other villages. We will begin again tomorrow,” Kudi told NewsClick.
As the protesting farmers staged a dharna on the service lane of the highway, the interstate border point reverberated with slogans like, “Hum Rajasthan se aaye hai, kisan ekta laaye hai,” renting the air.
Rampal Jat, a farmer leader, told NewsClick that the Centre is hell-bent on pushing the “wrong message” that the ongoing protests are restricted to only a couple of states. “Farmers led by us have been on a dharna for 11 days near Ghiloth industrial area in Shahjahanpur. If the media doesn’t come to talk to us, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been protesting,” he said.
Jat added that his outfit planned on intensifying their stir. “We are marching towards Delhi. We know that we will be stopped by the police and we are prepared for that. This is our satyagrah and we shall win, sooner or later,” he said.
When asked what he meant by being prepared, Jat claimed that the farmers are carrying clothes with them, which should allow the group to stay put for months to come. As far as food is concerned, “we are going to get help from the villagers staying nearby,” he said.
A lower turnout of farmers on Saturday, however, provided respite to the Haryana police, which was buckled up to prevent the agitating farmers from passing through tomorrow.
At the state border, behind a layer of barricades, a crane was deployed to dig a hole, possibly to collect sand to fill trolleys with, and form another barrier. In addition, the presence of stone concrete slabs, containers and a water cannon at the site, was an indication of the preparations made by the Haryana police against the ‘Delhi Chalo’ call.
The state police personnel were joined by the CISF and the Rapid Action Force (RAF); a drone camera was flying over the protesters to keep a check on the their movement.
The Haryana police, which reports to the coalition government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, also seems to be “learning from its past mistakes,” as one senior police official told NewsClick. In a changed strategy to stop the farmers’ march, small batches of police personnel, with more forces kept at stand by, were deployed at multiple strategic points throughout the Delhi-Jaipur highway at a distance of about five to ten kms.
These points included the Delhi-Gurugram border near Dundahera village, Kherki Daula Toll plaza near ITI Manesar, Kundli-Manesar-Palwal intersection near Panchgaon and near Dharuhera village – all lead up to Shahjahanpur village near where the farmers’ march is currently blocked. This will ensure that the march is at least slowed down, if not stopped, at each barrier, the official said.
During the November 26-27 ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, the state police had resorted to a heavy deployment of personnel, but only at the district borders, in a bid to stop the rallying farmers from Punjab and Haryana.
On Saturday, while slamming the Narendra Modi-led central government for its continued efforts to “defame” the farmers’ movement, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) said that the intensification of the agitation is being “advanced.”
Along with demanding the repealing of the three Farm Laws and enactment of a legislation assuring them of minimum support price (MSP) for their produce, the farmers here have a third demand: “To stop the privatisation of national assets.”
Explaining the rationale behind it, Kudi said: “If railways, petrol pumps, and other strategic assets are handed over to private players, then it will also affect the farming community in some way or the other.”
The current fight is to “save the agriculture sector”, he contended. “But that’s not enough. We must come together to fight all the ‘anti-people’ policies of the Modi government.”