Farmers' rail roko protest: Turnout shows agitation not limited to Haryana, Punjab, say protesters
However, a Railways spokesperson maintained that there was negligible impact on train services and added that majority of the zonal offices reported no incidents
Farmers in states such as Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi blocked railway tracks as part of their agitation against the Centre's three controversial farm laws.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions which is spearheading the protest, had announced the rail blockade last week to press for its demand to repeal the legislations. The SKM had said the blockade will be held across the country from 12 pm to 4 pm.
Farmers protesting at the Singhu border of Delhi claimed that the response to the rail roko call showed that the agitation against the agri laws was not limited to Punjab and Haryana.
A Railways spokesperson told news agency PTI that the agitation passed off without any incident and that there was "minimal or negligible impact" on the railway services. However, there were reports of detentions, arrests and cases being filed against protesters in different parts of the country.
The Railways had deployed 20 additional companies of the RPSF across the country, especially in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
'Minimal impact on railway services'
A Railways spokesperson told PTI that there was negligible or minimal impact on railway services due to the rail roko agitation called by farmer groups on Thursday and added that majority of the zonal railways reported no incident due to the protest.
"Majority of the zones have reported not a single case of any stoppage of train by the agitators. Few trains were stopped in some areas of some Railway zones but now train operation is normal and trains are being operated smoothly. While dealing with the Rail roko agitation, utmost patience was exercised by all concerned," he said.
Earlier, around 25 trains were regulated by the Railways on account of the agitation. Regulating trains means they have been either cancelled, short terminated or rerouted.
Protesters had started assembling on the tracks at stations near Delhi, news agency PTI had reported earlier in the day. Protesters also gathered near the Gazipur border at Modinagar railway station, the official had said.
No train arrived at the Delhi's Narela Railway station post noon, the news agency reported earlier. According to a senior police officer, the trains scheduled to arrive at Narela were stopped by the protesting farmers in Haryana's Sonepat. "Jhelum Express passed the station in the morning, and no train arrived after that," the police officer said.
He added that approximately 100 personnel drawn from the local police and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) have been deployed at the railway station to respond to any eventuality during the agitation.
Station Superintendent HS Tyagi said, "One train coming from Bathinda (in Punjab) that was scheduled to arrive here at 11:30 hours has been stopped somewhere before Sonepat, and other trains coming from Kurukshetra, Panipat and Ambala, will be affected,". Tyagi had said that things were expected to go back to normal after the agitation ended at 4 pm.
He, however, said the "rail roko" has not affected passenger movement at Narela and the number of people arriving and departing the station was more or less similar.
DMRC authorities had shut the entry and exit for four hours at four metro station including at the Tikri border, in view of the security situation. The Tikri Border metro station is near the site where the farmers are protesting against three new agriculture laws of the Centre.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) tweeted to inform the commuters about the closure and reopening of entry and exit at these four stations.
According to the news agency, agitating farmers, including women, squatted on rail tracks at many places in Haryana, including Ambala, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Panchkula and Fatehabad (Bhattu Kalan) districts, officials said.
Farmers of nearby villages of Panchkula sitting on Railway track near sector 19 Panchkula during Rail Roko by Kisan Aandolan to protest against three Farm Laws @IndianExpress @iepunjab pic.twitter.com/YLSZiYwxZc
— kamleshwar singh (@ks_express16) February 18, 2021
On the Ambala-Delhi railway section, a group of farmers led by Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader from Ambala, Gulab Singh Manakpur, squatted on a rail track at Shahpur village, about 2 kilometres from the Ambala Cantt station.
"Our protest will continue in a peaceful manner till the farm laws are repealed,"the BKU leader said.
Some effects of the 'rail roko' call was also felt at Kurukshetra where farmers climbed on the locomotive of Gita Jayanti Express train, which was stationary at that time, resulting in delays.
Farmers also blocked train tracks at Charkhi Dadri railway station in Haryana and served 'jalebis', tea and snacks to other protestors, police as well as railway officials said.
Protests were also held in Palwal according to reports.
Haryana: Farmers block railway tracks in Palwal as a part of their nationwide 'rail roko' agitation against Farm Laws. Security personnel also present. pic.twitter.com/npImeT7O6S
— ANI (@ANI) February 18, 2021
In Punjab, protesters sat on tracks at many places on the Delhi-Ludhiana-Amritsar railway route, officials said. According to The Indian Express, the rail roko protest took place at more than 50 places in the state.
Farmers blocked the Jalandhar Cantt-Jammu railway track in Jalandhar and also blocked a rail track in Mohali district, they said. Security has been tightened in both Haryana and Punjab, with personnel of the government railway police and the state police force being deployed there, officials said.
The Ferozepur division of the Northern Railways has decided to halt trains at stations so that passengers face lesser inconvenience during the 'rail roko' protest reported news agency PTI.
Divisional Railway Manager, Ambala Division, GM Singh said that no train has been cancelled in view of the 'rail roko' agitation.
Four trains were scheduled to pass from Ambala between 12 to 4 pm, railway officials said.
Officials said the movement of trains is likely to be delayed because of the farmers' rail blockade. Train services will be resumed after following due security protocols once the agitation is over, they said.
The 'rail roko' protest in Uttar Pradesh remained peaceful, with farmers holding token protests near railway tracks and stations in the state, PTI reported.
Farmers protested in Chitrakoot, Hamipur, Mahoba, Lalitpur, Fatehpur, Amethi and other districts of the state, demanding the repeal of the three contentious laws.
In Banda, farmers sat on a railway track for some time and left after giving a memorandum addressed to the President about their demands, Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Mahendra Pratap Singh Chauhan said.
In Chitrakoot, 100 famers were detained while they tried to stop the rail movement, ASP Shailendra Kumar Rai said. All the detained farmers were taken to the police lines and later they were set free, he said. All the detained farmers were taken to the police lines and later they were set free, he added.
In Rajasthan, chief spokesperson of the North-Western Railway, Gaurav Gaur said that the Rewari-Sri Ganganagar special train was cancelled due to the farmers' "rail roko" agitation. A few trains were also delayed according to the news agency.
Gaur also said the protest by farmers was largely symbolic and claimed that not much impact was seen in the areas under the North-Western Railway.
Farmers staged demonstrations on tracks at several places. They stopped a train in Jaipur and climbed on its engine. When RPF personnel brought them down, they sat on tracks.
Looking at the agitation near Malakhera, a train was halted at the Rajgarh station by the railway authorities.
Rail roko campaigns were also held in Maharashtra's Aurangabad and Pune. At least 12 persons were detained in the agitation staged by Lal Bawta Shet Majur Union at Lasur station, around 40 km from Aurangabad, a railway police official said adding that further probe is underway,
The agitation commenced at around 9 am and farmers from 12 villages participated in the protest, president of the union Ram Bharti said."The Jalna-Mumbai Janshatabdi train was stopped at the station for around 30 minutes," the railway police official said.
The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (AIKS) staged a protest outside Aurangabad railway station. The agitation, which started at 12 pm, was led by AIKS' district president Bhagwan Bhojane, an official said.
In Pune, members of different organisations and organisations and political parties including Congress, Shiv Sena, NCP, Janata Dal and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) held a 'rail roko' agitation at the Pune railway station on Thursday afternoon, said labour welfare activist Nitin Pawar.
The protesters blocked the Koyna Express and shouted slogans by standing in front of the train, he said.
A Railway Portection Force (RPF) official said that a case was registered under relevant sections of the Railway Act against three activists, including Pawar, for unauthorisedly coming on the railway platform, crossing the railway tracks and raising slogans.
The call for the rail roko campaign evoked a mixed response in Karnataka, with the protest remaining low-key in state capital Bengaluru but seeing a good turnout in Raichur, Belagavi and Davangere, according to news agency PTI.
The agitation took place in Yeshwanthpur Railway station in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Raichur, Belagavi, Vijayapura, Davangere, Hubballi-Dharwad, Koppal and Kolar, PTI reported. The agitators tried in vain to storm into the railway station to stop the trains but the police force present their barricaded the area.
In Raichur, Belagavi and Davangere, protesters were arrested, sources told the news agency. In Bengaluru, the agitation was led by farmer-leader Kuruburu Shanthakumar but there was no great impact.
Protest not limited to Punjab, Haryana, say protesters
Farmers staged sit-ins on railway tracks in Uttarakhand's Haridwar and US Nagar district but there was no disruption of train services, reported the Hindustan Times. At the Roorke station in Haridwar district, trains operated normally with only one train — the Haridwar-Bandra train -- arriving fifty minutes late, the report quoted railway officials saying.
Rail blockade was also seen in Uttar Pradesh according to reports, while The Indian Express reported that glimpses of the campaign were seen in Kolkata as well.
Modinagar: Members of Bharatiya Kisan Union shower flower petals on police personnel and offer sweets to them during farmers' 'Rail Roko' protest
Police appeals to BKU members to end their agitation pic.twitter.com/wiBvvxbuRK
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) February 18, 2021
Protesters at the Singhu border claimed that the rail roko andolan showed that the governments claims of the farmers protest being limited to just two states was wrong.
"The government has constantly been saying that the protest against the three farm laws is being staged by the farmers of just two states, Punjab and Haryana, but the rail roko andolan shows that the government is wrong. Farmers from so many states have participated. That is why it was important for us to protest on the railway tracks. Like the railways that has a nationwide network, our protest is also happening across the country," Krantikari Kisan Union's Gurdaspur district president Bhajan Singh said.
Another farmer leader, Amrik Singh, said it was one of the many ways the protesters wanted to show their strength to the government.
"The three laws need to be repealed and the Samyukt Kisan Morcha is trying to put pressure on the government from every angle. But we have been protesting peacefully and will continue to do so," the Jalandhar state unit president of the BKU (Kadia), said.
He added that the "rail roko" event was limited to four hours because the farmers "only wanted to send a message to the government and not inconvenience the public". "We do not want to create problems for the passengers. We only want the government to accept our demands, so that they can also sleep peacefully and we can return home to our families," he said.
Earlier, farmer unions had called a 'chakka jam' on 6 February and a 'tractor parade' in Delhi on 26 January, during which a section of protesters clashed with police, overturned vehicles while some hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting since late November at Delhi's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding the repeal of three farm laws passed in September: The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporations.
However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.
With inputs from agencies
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