Farmers call for 'Bharat Bandh' on 8 Dec ahead of talks on Saturday; PIL in SC seeks removal of protesters
Traffic moved at snail's pace at several border points of Delhi on Friday as Delhi Police kept key routes connecting the National Capital to Haryana and Uttar Pradesh closed, in view of the farmers' protest against three farm laws
Toughening their position ahead of the next round of talks with the Centre on Saturday, farmers groups on Friday announced a 'Bharat Bandh' on 8 December and said they would occupy toll plazas on that day.
However, while farmers remained camped at several entry points on Delhi's borders as the protests against the three farm laws entered the ninth day on Friday, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking to immediately remove the farmers from the locations, saying that commuters are facing hardships due to the road blockades and that the gatherings might lead to increase in COVID-19 cases.
Despite that, more voices in support of the farmer's protest also emerged on Friday, the latest being Punjabi singer Harbhajan Mann, who refused a state government award, saying, "All the attention and efforts right now from us all must be dedicated to the peaceful farmers' protest."
Veteran actor Dharmendra also expressed solidarity with farmers and urged the Centre to find a solution to the issue, a day after he deleted a similar tweet.
Traffic remained choked at Delhi's border points on Friday as thousands of farmers from Haryana, Punjab, and other states continued their demonstrations after talks with the government failed to yield any resolution on Thursday.
According to PTI, the police kept the Delhi-Haryana border at Singhu, Tikri, Jharoda Lampur, Auchandi, Safiabad, Piao Maniyari, and Saboli closed for traffic movement.
It said border points at Dhansa, Daurala, Kapashera, Rajokri, NH 8, Bijwasan/Bajghera, Palam Vihar and Dundahera are open for travel between Delhi and Haryana.
Meanwhile, a report by PTI highlighted how a 25-member team of Muslim men have been serving langar to farmers protesting along the Delhi border.
Farmers announce Bharat Bandh on 8 Dec
Addressing a press conference, farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chadoni said if the Centre does not accept their demands during Saturday's talks, they will intensify their agitation against the new farm laws.
"In our meeting today, we have decided to give a 'Bharat Bandh' call on December 8 during which we will also occupy all toll plazas," said Harinder Singh Lakhwal, general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union.
"We have planned to block all roads leading to Delhi in the coming days if new farm laws are not scrapped," he also said.
He said that farmers will protest against the Centre and corporate houses, and burn their effigies on 5 December. He added that on 7 December, sportspersons will return their medals in solidarity with the farmers. However, Lakhwal did not divulge the names and number of sportspersons who would be returning their medals.
During the press conference, there were also farmer leaders from Rajasthan, Telangana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and other states.
Farmer leaders reiterated their demands that the Centre call a special session of Parliament to repeal the new farm laws, adding that the protestors did not want amendments to the news laws but their scrapping.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait on Friday said the farmers are hoping that the government will meet their demands during the fifth round of talks scheduled on 5 December, failing which they will continue their protests.
The protesting farmers had on Wednesday threatened to block other roads of Delhi in the coming days if the new agriculture laws are not scrapped soon.
The farmer community has expressed apprehension that the new laws are "anti-farmer", and would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporations.
However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.
Petition at SC against farmers' protest
A petition was filed by law student Rishabh Sharma at the Supreme Court, seeking direction to the authorities to immediately remove farmers, saying commuters are facing hardships due to the road blockades and the gatherings might lead to increase in COVID-19 cases.
The plea has sought the apex court directions to the authorities to open the roads at Delhi borders, shift these protestors to the allotted place and provide guidelines on social distancing, and the use of masks at the protest place to contain spread of COVID-19 cases.
It referred to the 7 October verdict, delivered on a petition against the blockade of a road in Shaheen Bagh area in Delhi by those protesting against Citizenship Amendment Act, in which the apex court had said that public spaces cannot be occupied indefinitely and demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone.
Referring to COVID-19 guidelines issued by the government, the plea has said that despite the advisories not to hold large gathering amid the pandemic, lakhs of farmers have gathered on Delhi borders and this might lead to increase in the number of coronavirus cases.
The petitioner also claimed that Delhi Police had on 27 November allowed these protesters to hold demonstration peacefully at Nirankari ground at Burari here but despite that they have blocked the borders of Delhi.
"Because of the ongoing protest at the Delhi borders, the roads have been blocked by the protesters and closed border points, which have affected vehicular traffic and people who are travelling to and from Delhi to get medical treatment in reputed government/private hospitals situated in Delhi are also affected," said the plea, filed through advocate Om Prakash Parihar.
Actor Dharmendra, Punjab Singer Harbhajan Mann support farmers
According to PTI, veteran actor Dharmendra on Friday urged the Central Government to find a solution to farmers' protests over the farm laws, a day after he deleted a similar post on Twitter.
On Thursday, the 84-year-old actor had urged the government to resolve the protests soon, citing the growing number of coronavirus cases in Delhi.
"I request the government... please quickly find a solution the farmers' problems... the number of corona cases are on a rise in Delhi... it is painful," Dharmendra had written in a post. However, the veteran actor soon deleted the post, without any explanation.
On Friday morning, a user posted the screenshot of the tweet, wondering what prompted the actor to delete the tweet.
Dharmendra said, "I deleted the tweet because I felt saddened by comments like these. You can abuse me to your heart's content, I am happy that you are happy. Yes, I am sad for my farmer brothers."
The "Apne" actor further said, "The government should find a solution fast, nobody is listening to us."
Punjabi singer-actor Harbhajan Mann announced that he will not accept the state government's 'Shiromani Punjabi' Award, expressing solidarity with farmers protesting against the new central farm laws.
The Punjab Languages Department had on Thursday chosen Mann for the award. The department had announced Sahitya Ratna and Shiromani awards for 18 different categories of literature and art.
"People's love is the biggest award of my career, & all attention & efforts right now from us all must be dedicated to the peaceful farmers' protest (sic)," Mann said on Twitter.
Though I’m grateful to be selected, I humbly cannot accept the Shiromni Gayak award from the Department of Language. People’s love is the biggest award of my career, & all attention & efforts right now from us all must be dedicated to the peaceful farmers’ protest #farmerprotest
— Harbhajan Mann (@harbhajanmann) December 4, 2020
Mann, along with many Punjabi singers and artists, has been supporting the farmers' agitation for the last several months. The singer-actor had also attended the farmers protest at the Delhi borders.
"Proud of the peaceful & resilient protesters from far & wide," Mann said in another tweet.
You had to be there to experience their energy, fervour & optimism. Amidst adversity, they smile & share moments of happiness. Proud of the peaceful & resilient protesters from far & wide.#5दिसंबर_भारत_बंद #FarmersProtestDelhi2020 #FarmersAreLifeLine #FarmersProtest pic.twitter.com/2eHzUVDjA5 — Harbhajan Mann (@harbhajanmann) December 4, 2020
Muslims serve langar to farmers
Meanwhile, a 25-member team of Muslim men have been serving 'langar' (community kitchen) since Wednesday to the farmers protesting against the Centre's new farm laws at Delhi's Singhu border.
The team of the Muslim Federation of Punjab, led by Faaroqi Mubeen, say they have arrived at the Singhu border to "serve the farmers who feed everyone".
"The 'langar' will go on 24X7 till the protests continue. The farmers do so much for us. It is our turn to return the favour," he said.
"It is our responsibility to take care of the farmers. We are a team of 25 volunteers who are working non-stop to keep the 'langar' going," Mubeen said.
INLD farmers to join protesters
Meanwhile, Abhay Chautala, the younger son of INLD president and former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala asserted that the party is "solidly behind farmers" fighting against the three laws.
"The government should not linger on the matter. They should immediately resolve it by agreeing to the farmers' demand to repeal the laws. The government must also give a written assurance on the MSP," he said.
Abhay Chautala also took a veiled dig at the JJP, led by his elder brother Ajay Singh Chautala with the latter's son Dushyant Chautala being the deputy chief minister in the BJP-led Khattar government in Haryana.
"There are many who claim to follow the ideology of Chaudhary Devi Lal but they are clinging to power overlooking what farmers are going through," he said.
The Indian National Lok Dal on Friday also expressed their willingness to join any front floated by the Shiromani Akali Dal to further the tillers' and other causes.
"The SAD and INLD have already fought elections together (in Haryana). They are allies even today. If any such front comes up, the INLD will be part of it," said Abhay Chautala.
With inputs from PTI
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