Lucknow: A group of over 5,000 farmers from Rampur, Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur, Moradabad and Lakhimpur Kheri districts of Uttar Pradesh under the aegis of multiple farmers unions, arrived at UP-Delhi border Thursday morning. Carrying food and other essential commodities for protesters, the UP farmers travelled for over 50 hours braving icy winds in open tractors, facing police scrutiny at over 14 check posts and a stand-off with the cops in Moradabad.
A minor scuffle took place between cops and protesters on the outskirts of Moradabad, where a massive police battalion had already blocked the NH-24 to prevent the farmers from joining those agitating at the border. The farmers alleged that local police who blocked their way behaved like "rioters", and used water cannons and force to deter them from moving towards the national capital.
The Uttar Pradesh police's attempt to stop the farmers comes days after the Supreme Court upheld people's constitutional right to hold peaceful protests.
Dharmendra Malik, state spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), told NewsClick that farmers from Uttar Pradesh were being stopped from marching towards Delhi. He said the police had come to various villages in Meerut, Mathura, Agra, Firozabad, Hathras and Muzaffarnagar districts in Western UP asking villagers not to move out of the village limits. “The farmers had packed up rations and bedding into tractors but the police prevented movement of the villagers,” he alleged.
“We are getting similar reports from Eastern Uttar Pradesh and adjoning areas of NCR (National Capital Region). Thousands of BKU workers are being stopped in many other villages,” Malik claimed, adding that many villagers wanted to supply milk and other essentials to agitating farmers but this supply line too have been blocked by UP police under the Yogi Adityanath-led government.
Another farmer who was on his way to Delhi, said that all the farmers want to go to Singhu border, which has become the epicentre of the protests. But the UP government is forcibly preventing the movement of farmers, he said. By posting police forces at the villages, at the border and toll plazas, the Yogi government is “playing with fire,” he said.
“It seems the BJP leadership has not learnt its lesson. It is time and again provoking the farmers. The result of this would be very detrimental,” BKU leader Dharmendra Malik said.
Meanwhile, Bulandshahr Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Santosh Kumar Singh said the farmers in the district willing to participate in Delhi protests were being sent home after police intervention. "Every day we find around 50 to100 farmers who want to go to Delhi. We persuade them to go back home,” he said.
Earlier, Harinam Singh Verma, vice-president of BKU, said, "We have written to the authorities concerned for permission regarding our march to Delhi few weeks back but have not got a reply.” He further said, “In any case, around 5,000 supporters from Eastern Uttar Pradesh will be en route to Delhi to extend their support to the farmers who have been camping for the past 27 days in Ghaziabad and Noida.” He added that in case the police stopped them, the administration would be responsible for any dire consequences.