Only a few hundred agitating farmers had, as of Saturday evening, accepted the Delhi Police’s offer to continue their stir at a ground in Burari, a day after relentless skirmishes at the capital’s interstate borders forced the police to allow protesters into the city.
Meanwhile, thousands of farmers continued to block two arterial roads at Singhu and Tikri borders, connecting Delhi with Haryana, for the second consecutive day as part of their ongoing agitation against three farm laws passed by Parliament in September.
Union home minister Amit Shah appealed to farmers on Saturday and said his government was ready to hold talks. “I appeal to the protesting farmers that the Union government is ready to hold talks. The agriculture minister has invited them on December 3 for a discussion. The government is ready to deliberate on every problem and demand of farmers,” he told ANI.
Unlike Friday, when police and farmers clashed multiple times at the two border points, Saturday was free of incident.
“We intend to block Delhi from all sides so that the government is pressured into listening to our demands. Protesting at Burari would have been like being jailed in an open ground. We have come prepared for however long it takes,” said Purushottam Singh, chief of the Bhartiya Kisan Union’s Lakhua (Punjab) unit.
On Friday afternoon, the Delhi Police had agreed to let in the protesters, provided they move to the Burari ground, but not before a series of clashes between farmers and the police who used tear gas shells, lathis and water cannons.
Only a few hundred farmers who entered via Tikri border have moved to Burari; no farmer camped at Singhu border has agreed to the “protest only in Burari” offer of the Delhi Police.
Farmers at SInghu said they would agree to a march to Rashtrapati Bhawan or Jantar Mantar, but not any other site. “Some of the farmers from the Tikri border had left for the Burari ground but we have called them back,” said Jaspal Singh, a farmer leader from Firozpur, who is camping at Tikri border.
Amid the impasse, farmers from Punjab and Haryana continued to arrive at the Delhi-Haryana border throughout Saturday. “We have trucks and trolleys lined up for several kilometres,” said Jaspal Singh.
On Saturday, the police and the farmers maintained a distance of at least 50m from each other at both the borders.
“If farmers want to go to Burari, we will remove the barricades. There was no confrontation since Friday afternoon, but barricades will remain closed,” said A Koan, deputy commissioner of police (outer district).
Gaurav Sharma, DCP of outer-north district, under whose jurisdiction the Singhu Border falls, said,“Our aim is to keep things peaceful.”
The Delhi government on Saturday set up a Covid-19 testing centre at the ground. The mobile centre will have teams to conduct rapid antigen tests free of cost, said a senior official in the revenue department.
Health minister Satyendar Jain said, “The farmers have legitimate concerns. They should at least be heard. The Delhi government has refused the police’s proposal to turn stadiums into jails. We are merely facilitating the famers’ visit.”
Several politicians spoke in support f farmers on Saturday. AAP legislator Sanjeev Jha, who met farmers in Burari along with his party leader Raghav Chadha, said they were there to ensure that there is no inconvenience to farmers. “We will ensure that they have no problems, irrespective of how long they wish to stay there,” Jha said.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the Modi government cannot break the strong resolve of farmers through “fake FIRs” and the fight against the “anti-agriculture” laws will continue till they are repealed. He also tweeted that raising one’s voice against injustice was not crime but a duty. “Raising voice against injustice is not crime, it is a duty. For us, it was ‘Jai Kisan’ and will remain so,” he said.
Farmers break barricades at UP Gate border
Members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), led by Rakesh Tikait, broke through barricades at the UP Gate border with east Delhi on Saturday afternoon. The 500-odd farmers were stopped at Ghazipur by Delhi Police and they returned to UP Gate to hunker down below the flyover for the night.
“After breaking the barriers, we took our vehicles up to the Ghazipur where the Delhi Police stopped us. So, we returned to UP Gate and decided to stay put till a strategy is devised to enter Delhi,” said Rajvir Singh, state vice-president, BKU.
“We are diverting traffic away from UP Gate. Commuters coming from Mohan Nagar will not be allowed to turn left towards UP Gate. Instead, they can enter Delhi from Kaushambi. Those travelling on NH-9 will also not be allowed to come down to the UP Gate flyover. Instead, all such vehicles will go over the flyover,” said Gyanendra Singh, superintendent of police (city 2).
In Gautam Budh Nagar, a group of farmers was intercepted on the Yamuna Expressway on Saturday afternoon. “They were stopped near Jewar after which they camped on the side of the expressway. There wasn’t any traffic disruption and it was a peaceful gathering. No police action was needed,” said additional deputy commissioner of police, zone 3, Vishal Pandey.
Amarinder versus Khattar
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday said he will not speak to his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar until he apologises for “inflicting brutality” on farmers marching to Delhi.
“Khattar is lying that he tried calling me earlier and I did not respond. But now, after what he has done to my farmers, I will not speak to him even if he calls me 10 times. Unless he apologises and admits that he did wrong with Punjab’s farmers, I will not forgive him,” said Singh. The Punjab CM’s reaction came after Khattar claimed on Saturday that despite him trying to reach out over the farmers’ issue, Singh did not respond or answer calls made to his office for three days.
Mewat farmers to
march to Delhi
Farmers from Nuh, Mewat,will be travelling to Delhi on December 1 to join the ongoing stir, farmer leaders from the region said. The decision was taken after a joint meeting of farmers’ union Bharatiya Kisan Union, Mewat Kisan Union and other organisations such as Mewat Vikas Sabha in Nuh on Saturday.
“We were proceeding towards Delhi on November 26 itself but were stopped from doing so by authorities who detained us. Farmers will march towards Delhi on December 1 and join the stir in huge numbers,” said Azad Khan, vice-president (Haryana), Bharatiya Kisan Union.