Lucknow: Over 500 farmers – including 70 women – from across Odisha, riding in half-a-dozen buses under the aegis of the Navnirman Krushak Sangathan (NKS) were stopped by the Uttar Pradesh police in Guru ka Tal near Sikandra on the Agra-Delhi highway and prevented from entering Delhi. The farmers were heading to the national capital in solidarity with farmers protesting against the three Farm Laws who have planned a mega tractor rally on January 26, Republic Day.
Defying all odds they travelled on, through West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar. The convoy of farmers entered UP's Chandauli border on Wednesday afternoon after having covered nearly 1,800 kms. They have been still struggling to get through to the national capital for the past three days.
Himanshu Tiwari, the UP-in-charge of the NKS, claimed that the farmers from Odisha were stopped at several places and also “harassed” by the UP police. He said that farmers were detained at Rooma near Kanpur and their buses were seized. However, the district administration denied the allegation.
He said that the UP police and administration were not allowing the farmers to move to Delhi. The farmer leaders have been put under “illegal house arrest” to prevent them from reaching Delhi, he alleged, adding that they had also been threatened. “In Varanasi, the district administration locked the designated venue. When the farmers were entering the Kanpur border from Fatehpur via Prayagraj late on Wednesday, the police and administration stopped them in Maharajpur,” he said.
Akshaya Kumar, national convener of the NKS, told NewsClick, “We had begun our journey on January 15 in six buses from Bhubaneswar with more than 400 Nava Nirman Kishan Sangathan members to support farmers who have been camping at Delhi’s borders in the fight against the farm laws. We had not faced any problems till we crossed our last stop in Bihar,” he said.
“Since the very moment we entered Uttar Pradesh, my phone has kept ringing. The police in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency did not allow us to stay the night in Varanasi where we were supposed to rest. The farmers spent the night sitting on the highway, surrounded by police officials. When we did not find any place to stay in Varanasi, we moved towards Jaunpur where police officials were already waiting for us. We were stopped in Pali village by the SSP, SHO and even the DM asked us not to go Lucknow since it would create chaos. He asked us to go Kanpur via Lucknow's outer-ring road. The police officials stopped us in Jaunpur saying we were drunk. It did not stop here. The officers did not show us any section of the law or an order to explain why we were being stopped. We have not been provided with any food or water or any other facility,” he alleged.
Accusing the Uttar Pradesh police of preventing farmers from joining protests at the border, Kumar further said: “We did not enter Lucknow after the police instructed us to do so. We went to Kanpur but were faced with the same police behaviour. We were stopped in Maharajpur at the Kanpur-Fatehpur border on Wednesday night for almost six hours. We tried to talk to the police administration but did not succeed. Our convoy rested at the border that night and tried to move in the morning. Then, the police administration stopped us,” the farmers’ leader claimed, mentioning they were detained in Rooma. However, the district administration denied the charge.
Abhishek, a tribal rights activist from Odisha, who is also part of the long journey by bus, said: “We began our journey with only 400 people and did not expect that 300 more farmers from different districts including West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and UP would join us. Main akela hi chala tha janib-e-manzil magar, log saath aate gaye aur karvan banta gaya. We are determined to reach Delhi before January 26 and will join the Republic Day parade.”
The farmers’ leaders said that they had planned to join protesting farmers at the Tikri Border by January 21 but had only managed to reach Agra due to the constant interruptions by the UP Police and hurdles put forward by local administrations. They have had to change routes on several occasions and have gone hungry at ties too. They are expected to leave Agra this afternoon.
Meanwhile, farmers under the banner of the Bhartiya Kisan Union(BKU) took part in a rehearsal of the tractor rally.