Farmers in Uttar Pradesh, like their counterparts in Punjab, Haryana and other parts of the country, on Friday took to the streets in protest against the contentious farm bills passed by Parliament recently.
Friday’s was the first major protest in UP, unlike Punjab and Haryana that have been on the boil since the bills cleared the Parliament hurdle.
Responding to the ‘Bharat Bandh’ call given by various farmers’ bodies and supported by opposition parties, the farmers blocked state and national highways, organised tractor rallies and held demonstrations disrupting traffic for three-four hours in several districts of the state with police having a tough time dealing with protesters.
There were reports of clashes between police and protesters in some districts, including Shrawasti and Kannauj.
The opposition parties, who lent their support to the farmers by joining the cause in various districts, included Samajwadi Party, Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and left parties.
With Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), a farmers’ organisation with a strong presence in several states of north India, being in the forefront, the impact was most visible in the Jat-dominant western UP districts that were on high alert with heavy police deployment.
BKU state president Rajveer Singh Jadaun claimed Friday’s ‘chakka jam’ was completely successful with wide support from traders and the public. He regretted that police tried to sabotage the peaceful agitation at some places.
“Ours was a totally peaceful agitation and we ensured no emergency services, like movement of ambulances, were disrupted but some policemen, who wanted to spoil the state government’s image, unnecessarily misbehaved with and lathi-charged our people at some places,” he alleged.
Reports of protests started trickling in right from the morning, with a group of Lucknow-bound farmers blocking the Lucknow-Ayodhya highway in Barabanki and burning crop waste on the road in protest. The farmers intensified the agitation as the day advanced. The protests lasted till about 3 pm.
In Lucknow, farmers protested at the Shahid Path crossing as well as in Bakshi Ka Talab while other groups demonstrated on the highway near Akbarpur Mati in Kanpur Dehat and blocked the national highway in Gursahaigunj in Kannauj.
In western UP, farmers blocked the Delhi-Noida highway, NH 58 in Muzafarnagar, Delhi-Saharanpur highway in Saharabpur, Meerut-Karnal highway in Shamli, Delhi-Pauri highway and Falauda road that connects Delhi to Haridwar and Dehardun etc. At some places, farmers were seen riding tractors with loudspeakers blaring patriotic songs while at others they were seen cooking food sitting on the road itself. In many cases, they parked their tractors on the roads to cause a blockade.
Reports of similar road blockades came from Mahoba and Jalaun in Bundelkhand too.
SP members joined the protests in various districts, including Lucknow, Prayagraj, Varanasi and Agra. They submitted memorandums for the governor through the district administration demanding that the Centre withdraw the ‘anti-farmer’ bills.
Congress workers took out a march in Varanasi, while AAP members and Allahabad University students staged protests separately in Prayagraj.
Farmers have strong reservations over some provisions of the three Bills— the Farmers’ Produce and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill — all passed by Parliament recently.
“The three proposed laws, if enacted without suitable amendments, will be a sure recipe for disaster of small farmers,” Jadaun said. “We have three specific demands. First, it should insert clauses in the new Bills, stating that the minimum support price (MSP) system will continue. Second, maximum stockholding limit for traders will not be done away with and third, mandi fee will be abolished for all agri products sold and purchased within the mandi yards,” Jadaun stressed.
He said BKU’s national executive will hold its meeting in a day or two to take a call on further course of action.