Bharat Bandh: Farmers nationwide hold peaceful protests against Centre's farm bills; several roads blocked, police on alert
The nationwide protest has been called by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), All India Kisan Mahasangh (AIKM) and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU)
Farmers across the country took to the streets on Friday, protesting against two agriculture bills passed by the Parliament recently.
While farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been protesting since the proposed legislations were introduced in the Lok Sabha on 17 September, farmers' unions in Karnataka, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra observed a Bharat Bandh on Friday.
The protests in various states on Friday have remained peaceful, reports said. However, movement along highways and railway networks has been hampered in states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh due to the Rasta Roko and Rail Roko agitations.
The nationwide protest has been called by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), All India Kisan Mahasangh (AIKM) and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).
As many as 18 Opposition parties, including Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Left, Trinamool Congress, DMK and TRS, are extending support to the bandh.
Ten central trade unions, including All India Trade Union Congress, National Trades Union Congress, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, All India United Trade Union Centre and Trade Union Coordination Centre, are also expected join the agitation.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at the Opposition at its criticism over the farm bills issue, and said that "those who always lied to farmers are now shooting from their shoulders and misleading them for their own political benefit".
Addressing BJP leaders and workers on the birth anniversary of party's ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay, Modi asked them to reach out to farmers on the ground and inform them about details and benefits of the new agriculture reforms and how these will empower them.
Our ground connect will finish off the propaganda being spread about the reforms, he said.
Modi said small and marginal farmers, who constitute 85 percent of the peasant community, will benefit the most from these reforms which, he added, give them an option to sell their produce outside agriculture 'mandis' for a better price.
Attacking the Congress, which has been trying to mount a nationwide protests against these bills, Modi said hollow slogans were given in favour of farmers and workers for many decades since Independence and governments at the Centre and states were formed in their name.
Punjab and Haryana
In Punjab, a total of 31 farmers’ organisations have extended their support to the call of a Bharat Bandh, PTI reported.
The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) has called for a 'Rail Roko' in the state, while Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has appealed to farmers to maintain law and order and adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.
No FIR will be registered for the violation of Section 144 during the protest, the chief minister has said.
The Shiromani Akali Dal, whose senior leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Narendra Modi's Cabinet over the bills, also announced a 'chakka jam' for three hours across Punjab on Friday morning.
Punjab: Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee continues their 'rail roko' agitation in Amritsar, in protest against the #FarmBills.
The Committee is holding the 'rail roko' agitation from September 24 to 26 against the Bills. pic.twitter.com/NFfSCcWuO5
— ANI (@ANI) September 25, 2020
Fourteen special passenger trains running from the railways’ Ferozepur division have been cancelled from 24 to 26 September. The trains that were suspended include Golden Temple Mail (Amritsar-Mumbai Central), Jan Shatabdi Express (Haridwar-Amritsar), New Delhi-Jammu Tawi, Sachkhand Express (Nanded-Amritsar), and Shaheed Express (Amritsar-Jaynagar).
In Punjab, the call for a bandh has been supported by state government employees' unions, artists, commission agents, labourers and social activists, PTI reported.
As the protest got underway in the state, shops, commercial establishments and vegetable markets at many places remained shut. Shopkeepers have been appealed to keep their shops shut in support of farmers.
Farmers on Thursday had started a three-day rail rook stir against the Bills and squatted on tracks in parts of the state.
Buses of the state-owned Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) remained off road in Punjab on Friday.
While the ruling Congress in the state and AAP have extended support to the protest, the Shiromani Akali Dal held a chakka jaam at many places in the state.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and Harsimrat participated in a tractor rally in the Muktsar district. Sukhbir led the march from his residence in Badal village to Lambi, where the party had organised a protest against the bills.
Prominent Punjabi singers, including Harbhajan Mann and Ranjit Bawa, took part in a farmers' protest in Nabha.
Farmers at several places in the state started gathering on roads to stop the movement of traffic. Women protesters under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee took out a protest march in Amritsar.
In Barnala, a tractor was set on fire by protesters against the farm bills. Punjab farmers also blocked the Sangrur-Patiala, Chandigarh-Bathinda and Ambala-Rajpura-Ludhiana and Moga-Ferozepur roads, PTI reported.
Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal said farmers were getting support from traders, transporters and taxi operators.
However, people in Punjab's Pathankot, which is a strong base of the BJP and is represented by BJP MP Sunny Deol, didn't participate in the shut down against the new fam bills, The Indian Express reported.
Meanwhile, in Haryana, farmers blocked the Rohtak-Jhajjar road. Farmers held protests at several places in the state, including Rewari and Yamunanagar. Additional forces were deployed at Ambala and Panipat railway stations.
BKU has given a call in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to block highways, while farmers’ unions have given a call to hold protests at Delhi-NCR borders.
Earlier, reports said that the associations leading the bandh had exempted National Highways from being a site of protest on Friday.
BKU president Gurnam Singh Chaduni reportedly appealed to arhtiyas (commission agents at mandis) to close their shops.
He was quoted by the report as saying, "There is a warm response to our stir in Haryana… There should be complete chakka jam on Friday. People’s support is must for the same. There should be no vehicles on roads during the bandh call."
He has also appealed to farmers to refrain from "any type of violence", the report said. Haryana home minister Anil Vij chaired a meeting on the security situation on Thursday in view of the bandh scheduled for Friday.
Meanwhile, the Chandigarh Police are also on "high alert" due to the protests, as reports indicated that farmers are may try to enter the Union Territory.
"Police presence was increased at all border nakas for round the clock since Thursday evening. The SHOs and SDPOs of the concerned divisions, especially of areas sharing boundaries with Punjab and Haryana, were instructed to stay alert, to prevent any untoward incident," The Indian Express reported.
The districts expected to be impacted the most in Haryana include Kurukshetra, Ambala, Yamuna Nagar, Panchkula, Jind and Kaithal, The Hindu reported.
Farmers in Punjab and Haryana specifically are up in arms against the bills as they fear that the proposed laws will dismantle the robust system of minimum support price (MSP) in their states.
A Hindustan Times report noted that while the MSP system doesn't benefit all farmers equally, farmer protests "have been loudest in states such as Punjab and Haryana, states where the procurement system and MSP mechanism is strong".
The BKU has also given a call for a state-wide chakka jam (road blockade) in Uttar Pradesh on Friday. “We have asked workers and farmers to organise a chakka jam in all the districts between 11am and 2pm,” BKU state president Rajveer Singh Jadaun said, according to Hindustan Times.
Director general of Uttar Pradesh Police HC Awasthy said he had alerted the police department in all districts about the protests. He said the Uttar Pradesh police were making necessary arrangements.
Delhi, Himachal Pradesh
Delhi-Haryana border is likely to be sealed, even as the Delhi Police remains on high alert, according to a report in Hindustan Times.
— ANI (@ANI) September 25, 2020
Meanwhile, hundreds of farmers gathered on a key road in Uttar Pradesh's Noida during a protest demonstration were stopped from proceeding towards Delhi by police in riot gear.
The farmers were at the Noida Gate in Sector 14A near Chilla, at the Uttar Pradesh-Delhi border, where they were stopped by the Gautam Buddh Nagar police around 12 noon.
Barricades came up amid heavy deployment of police personnel at the Noida-Delhi border where the farmers, who travelled on foot, two-wheelers and tractor trolleys, staged a demonstration and held a 'panchayat' addressed by regional farm leaders and BKU office-bearers.
The gathering disrupted traffic movement on the key road between Noida and Delhi.
"Police personnel have been deployed at the Noida Gate to check the movement of protesters. The situation is under control. We are talking to the farmers and ensuring no law and order situation arises," Deputy Commissioner of Police, Noida, Rajesh S told PTI.
Earlier on Friday, the Delhi Police too intensified deployment of personnel along border areas in view of the nationwide protest call given by various farmer associations.
NDTV also reported that peaceful protests were held in Himachal Pradesh "but there were no reports of disruption of normal life or closure of any public services".
The report said that the protests were helmed by Himachal Kisan Sabha in Shimla.
Maharashtra, West Bengal
AIKS, the 3,00,000-member strong farmers' groups in Maharashtra, was set to hold protests across 21 districts, while its West Bengal unit was set to hold a mass resistance in the state by blocking roads and highways.
The Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity, an independent union of agricultural workers, sharecroppers, marginal peasants and plantation workers, is also supporting the bandh, according to India Today.
CPM farmers wing 'Sara Bharat Krishak Sabha' and those of other Left partners such as CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP took out rallies in West Bengal districts and blocked roads for some time.
Participants in the processions at some places carried vegetables and agricultural produce and shouted slogans against Modi and Union
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
Agitators took out processions in the rural belts of Hooghly, Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas, Bankura and Nadia districts among others.
Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu
In Kerala, farmers under the aegis of the AIKS staged widespread protests, and alleged that the new legislations will hand over the country's agriculture sector to corporate giants.
Senior CPM leader and AIKS vice president, S Ramachandran Pillai launched the protest in front of the Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram and said the new agri bills "will turn farmers into labourers of corporate giants".
Earlier on Friday, reports said that the Samyuktha Karshaka Samiti (SKS) will stage protests outside central government offices across Kerala.
Farmers' associations in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu also joined the nationwide protests.
In Tamil Nadu, farmers from the National South Indian River Interlinking Farmers’ Association sat outside the Collector's office in Trichy with human skulls, chained hands and nooses around their necks to register their protest against the bills.
Tamil Nadu: Farmers from National South Indian River Interlinking Farmers’ Association sit outside Collector's office in Trichy with human skulls, chained hands and nooses around their necks to demonstrate against recent #FarmBills. pic.twitter.com/wrhLOc4Y4Y
— ANI (@ANI) September 25, 2020
Farmers in Karnataka also staged demonstrations across the state, with a large number of ryots from various districts flocking to Bengaluru to take part in the protests against the amendments to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act and the Karnataka Land Reforms Act.
The agitators blocked highways and staged road rokos in many places affecting the traffic flow. Terming the amendments as 'anti-farmer', they alleged that some people in power brought them to convert their black money into white.
A group of farmers blocked the busy Tumakuru road near Yashwantpur in the city and engaged in sloganeering.
As the police arrived at the spot to clear the blockade, around 250 farmers courted arrest and were taken away in buses.
Demonstrations were also held in other districts, including Mysuru and Davangere. In Mangaluru, workers of Congress, other non-BJP parties and farmers' outfits gathered at the Nanthoor circle in the morning and staged the blockade.
A large number of police personnel were deployed at major junctions to avert any traffic jam.
Peasant leader Kuruburu Shanthakumar, who is among those leading the agitation, said all the highways to Bengaluru will be blocked, PTI reported.
He said more than 34 outfits have come together to stage agitations across the city. Shanthakumar alleged that the government did not take the farmers into confidence while bringing amendments to the law pertaining to the agriculture sector.
Meanwhile, NDTV reported that farmers with the Karnataka State Farmers' Association held a protest near Bommanahalli on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu highway.
The protests come amid a three-day rail roko in Punjab and Haryana that began on Thursday. Farmers fear the new bills will destroy the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system and hinder the functioning of agricultural mandis.
The Congress on Thursday supported the "Bharat Bandh" call given by farmer organisations for Friday, saying millions of party workers stand in solidarity with the farmers' cause and will participate in their dharnas. Congress spokesperson Randeep Sujewala said that while farmers and farm labourers fill the stomachs of countrymen with their hard labour, the Narendra Modi government is attacking them and their fields.
Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary said the party workers will take to the streets against the farm bills. The Congress has decided to take out marches in every state after which memorandums will be submitted to the respective governors on 28 September against these farm bills, which it says are against the interests of farmers and farm labourers.
Parliament had passed three farm reform bills — the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill — in the Monsoon Session. The acts seek to lift the restrictions on farmers to sell their produce only in government-regulated mandis or APMCs. They also lift the limit on stock-holding. Farmers have demanded that the Centre inserts a clause of guaranteed minimum support price in the Acts.
With inputs from PTI