Tension between the protesting farmers and the Union government escalated on Tuesday, February 13, after Haryana police fired tear gas on the farmers in Shambhu border, detaining several of the protesters. A large number of farmers’ trucks were seized at the border earlier in the day. The farmers have decided to go ahead with the Delhi Chalo march towards New Delhi after talks between farmer union leaders and Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Arjun Munda did not yield any result.
The Union Government has requested the Delhi government to convert Bawana stadium into a temporary prison. Turning down the request, Delhi Minister Kailash Gahlot said the demands of the farmers are genuine and that it is the Constitutional right of every citizen to make a peaceful protest. “The Union government, in fact, should invite them over for talks and try to find a solution to their genuine problems. Farmers of the Country are our 'annadata' and treating them in this way by arresting them would be like rubbing salt into their wounds. We cannot be a party to this decision of the Union Government. Hence, approval cannot be given for converting the stadium into a jail," he added.
Massive traffic jams were witnessed at the entry and exit points of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh as police and paramilitary personnel equipped with anti-riot gear placed multiple layers of barricades, concrete blocks, iron nails and walls of containers to stop the farmers from entering the capital city. Delhi Police on Monday had invoked section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) citywide and fortified the borders as a precautionary measure. A total of 114 companies, including 64 from paramilitary forces and 50 from the Haryana Police, have been deployed across various districts. Equipped with anti-riot gear, these units are stationed in the border areas and sensitive districts. Additionally, surveillance technologies such as drones and CCTV cameras are being utilised to monitor any disruptive activities.
"Some gates of Rajiv Chowk, Mandi House, Central Secretariat, Patel Chowk, Udyog Bhawan, Janpath and Barakhamba Road metro stations have been closed as per security instructions. However, the stations are still operational," said a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) official.
Not deterred by the massive security build-up, farmers said they would stage a sit-in protest there indefinitely if state governments stopped them from moving towards Delhi. In Punjab, there has largely been no blockade on highways and link roads by the police and the farmers could move ahead towards Haryana freely. Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee General Secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clarify why the government was not ready for a discussion with farmers. “We want to tell the people of India that we tried to find a solution so that we do not have to stand against the government. They are sending police and using water cannons in each and every village of Haryana. They are torturing farmers in Haryana. It seems that both these states are not a part of India anymore, they are being treated as an international border,” he added.
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Adish Aggarwala has written a letter to the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud to initiate suo motu action against the farmers for forcibly trying to enter Delhi.
(With inputs from IANS)