Shahjahanpur/Alwar: Truck drivers stranded at the farmer protest site on the Delhi-Jaipur Expressway alleged “unnecessary harassment” by the Haryana Police under the garb of “enhanced security” since the past few days. The police, however, has denied the charge.
The drivers, most of whom said they were stranded at the protest venue for well over two days, on Thursday blamed the state police for not allowing any movement of heavy vehicles. They said they were not even being allowed to a simple U-turn or pass through the barriers, even as multiple diversions have been created along the highway route.
The truckers alleged this was being done “forcefully,” as their keys were snatched away and they were “threatened” to position their trucks to serve as protection for police barricades, ostensibly to prevent the farmers from moving toward into Delhi, if they decide to.
The farmers, mainly hailing from Rajasthan and south districts of Haryana, are staying put since mid-December at the border point -- 130 km away from the national capita-- that connects the two states when their march to Delhi in protest against the controversial farm laws was barricaded by the Haryana Police.
Since then, one carriageway -- and later both -- of the highway that connects Delhi to Jaipur, while running all the way to Mumbai, has been blocked.
What the authorities are using for the blockade are not just yellow barricades but also kerb stones, boulders, heavy shipping containers among others -- a scene not so different from other farmers’ protest sites on the outskirts of the national capital, such as Singhu and Tikri.
Bhanwar Singh, a truck driver, said that he was plying back to Gujarat’s Ahmedabad after delivering auto parts to the Maruti Suzuki factory in Manesar, when he got “duped” by some police officials.
“It was afternoon and I had come nearby to fill diesel for my onward journey. Some police personnel approached me for a lift till the protest site. In return, they promised to allow me to pass through the barrier. When we reached here, they told me to stay put till further directions,” the 34-year-old told NewsClick.
This happened on Tuesday this week, four days after a section of farmers managed to break the police barricade and advanced towards Delhi. They were reportedly stopped after the police used tear gas and chilli grenades.
Since then, security has been visibly enhanced across the Delhi-Jaipur highway, with police personnel deployed at multiple intersections throughout the stretch, leading up to the national capital.
At the protest venue, Singh is not the only one facing such an ordeal. “The police are neither allowing us to pass through, nor even take a U-turn. We all have been told to stay here quietly for no reason,” said Vijay Sehni, 32, who was travelling with goods from Delhi to Jaipur.
Khalid, 35, said he was not fully aware of the diversions before starting from Haryana’s Sampla for a delivery in Maharashtra, even though he knew that farmers had blocked the highways around Delhi.
“I reached here in the afternoon yesterday (January 6) and could see some 40-50 trucks here. I thought it was a traffic jam due to the protest,” Khalid told Newsclick.
But as soon as Khalid tried to take a U-turn and approach an alternative route, “a police personnel came to me and forcefully snatched my keys,” he said. When I protested, they “threatened” to not give me back the truck keys “for the next 10 days”, he said.
Rajesh Kumar, DSP, Bawal, however, denied the involvement of police in the trucks being stranded at the protest site. “The truck drivers are caught in a traffic jam due to the protest… whoever is being able to manage is removing his vehicle. We are not stopping any one,” he told Newsclick.
Asked about the charges that truck keys were being snatched, Kumar said: “Why would the police do that? Inko koi bhadka raha hai. (someone is instigating them)”
Amra Ram, a Rajasthan-based All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader, had a different take on the issue. “We are witnessing at least 50-60 trucks being stranded here only since the past 5-6 days. This was not the case before,” he said.
This was in variance to what Kumar claimed, according to whom the so-called jam was an “everyday” occurrence.
Ram told Newsclick that farmer leaders from the protest site had earlier approached the Superintendent of Police, Bawal, urging them not to “harass” the truck drivers, but to no avail. “It is completely unnecessary. What is the fault of these drivers? They should be allowed to ply their trucks. We had also made announcements regarding this from the stage but the police won’t listen.”
Meanwhile, with langar being prepared for the protesters day and night, at least food is being taken care of for the truck drivers - thanks to the farmers. “We are also providing shelter to those drivers who need it,” said Ram.
But the gesture, though much appreciated in this difficult time, is not enough to provide any respite to a worried 28-year old Hanuman. “I have an urgent delivery to make in Jaipur. My employer is calling me every hour to check whether I have been able to move or not,” he said.
Hanuman was travelling from Haryana’s Panipat and has been stopped at the protest site since “over 48 hours now.”
“Abhi bola hai ki 5 baje tak jaane denge, ( Now we are bieng told that we will be allowed to move at 5 p.m) ” he told Newsclick on Thursday afternoon. “I am hoping that they do so. Anyway, it matters little, now that I am already behind the schedule. I will have to bear the penalty for it.”