Lucknow: Intensifying their protest against the Union Government's Farm Laws, agitating farmers in western Uttar Pradesh have blocked the Delhi-Meerut Expressway (DME) at Dasna for 24 hours from this morning.
The blockade began at 8 am on Saturday and will last till 8 am on Sunday. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of protesting farmers' unions spearheading the agitation against the three laws, gave a call for a 24-hour blockade of the Eastern Peripheral Expressway on Friday.
On Saturday the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) – one of the protesting farmers’ unions – said that farmers blocked the highway to reiterate their demand of a rollback of the three contentious laws. The union added that all entry and exit points on the highway will be closed without disrupting commuters dealing with emergency situations.
"It has been more than four months since the protests began at Delhi's borders and the government is not even showing basic humanity towards the protesters," BKU state spokesperson Dharmendra Malik, who led the protest, told Newsclick.
He added that efforts were being made to "suppress" the farmers' movement in lieu of a rise in COVID-19 cases across the country. However, he said, the agitating farmers would not let the Centre turn the farmers' protest into another Shaheen Bagh. "Night curfew or a lockdown may be imposed in the entire country, but the farmers' stir will continue until the government repeals the farm laws," Malik added.
The Eastern Peripheral Expressway connects the capital to several cities in western Uttar Pradesh – Meerut, Ghaziabad, Hapur, Shamli and Muzaffarnagar. Farmers from these regions, primarily associated with the BKU, joined the stir to step up the pressure on the government to repeal the farm laws.
Subhash, a farmer leader from Ghaziabad, who joined the protest, said: "The government thinks the farmers will return home in the summer. Earlier, they thought we would go back home in peak winter as well. But we will not budge an inch from here. Like we survived the winter, we will brave the scorching heat too."
There was heavy deployment of Uttar Pradesh Police personnel and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the area to persuade the farmers to vacate the expressway. "The Eastern Peripheral Expressway has been blocked by farmers protesting against the three farm laws at Dasna. We are talking to the farmer representatives to ensure early opening of the highway," Shailendra Kumar Singh, ADM Ghaziabad, told reporters, adding that traffic diversions have been made and asked commuters to avoid the Delhi-Meerut Expressway.
MOVEMENT WON’T SLACKEN DURING HARVESTING
The Ghazipur Border – one of the centers of the farmers’ protests – has witnessed a lower number of farmers for the last 15 to 20 days. Ever since the protest began at the capital's borders in November last year, the number of protesters at Ghazipur has dipped for the first time.
According to Pawan Khatana, BKU’s Meerut zone president, most of the farmers have returned to their respective villages for harvesting and will return to protest site after selling their yield. “All of them will return in two to three weeks and our movement will gain momentum again,” Khatana told Newsclick.
“The impact can been at the Ghazipur Border because it has more farmers fromm western Uttar Pradesh. Farmers from adjoining areas used to visit on a daily basis but they are engaged in harvesting and the procurement process. However, they will return with the same zeal and will join the stir, probably in the last week of April," said Khatana, adding that the government was "highly mistaken" if it thought the farmers would return "empty-handed".