A three-hour “chakka jam” was held from noon till 3 pm in different parts of the country following a blockade call by farmers’ unions protesting against the three new controversial laws passed by September last year. Farmers blocked several national and state highways across north India, registering their protest against the new laws.
Security was beefed up with deployment of additional forces in Delhi in view of the January 26 violence though the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of the farmer unions, had on Friday decided to keep off Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand during ‘chakka jam’.
Meanwhile, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait on Saturday said the protesters on Delhi’s outskirts will stay put till October 2. “We’ve given time to the Centre till October 2 to repeal the laws. After this, we’ll do further planning. We won’t hold discussions under pressure,” he said.
In Delhi, the entry and exit facilities at 10 prominent Delhi Metro stations were closed for several hours. They were later reopened in the evening and normal service resumed. At ITO, a water cannon vehicle and a riot control vehicle were deployed besides massive police presence. As many as 50 were detained from near Shaheedi Park for allegedly holding a protest in support of the ‘chakka jam.’
Effects of the ‘chakka jam’ was most felt in Punjab and Haryana, where the farmers parked their tractor-trailers in middle of roads and raised slogans against the Centre, with women taking part in sizeable numbers at several places. Farmer leaders claimed that the agitation remained peaceful in both states. The Punjab-Haryana border was sealed.
Several highways — Chandigarh-Zirakpur, Amritsar-Pathankot, Tarn Taran-Kapurthala, Ferozepur-Fazilka, Muktsar-Kotkapura, Bathinda-Chandigarh, Ludhiana-Jalandhar, Panchkula-Pinjore, Patiala-Kaithal, Jind-Karnal, Karnal-Kaithal, Ambala – Chandigarh Highway, Ambala- Hisar and Mansa-Sirsa — were blocked by the protesting farmers.
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The protests were also held at Shambhu near Ambala and at many toll plazas in both the states. Ambulances and school buses were, however, allowed during the “chakka jam,” said the protesters. Police had stepped up security and made arrangements for traffic diversion, said officials, adding adequate security personnel were deployed in Punjab and Haryana.
In Rajasthan, where ruling Congress had supported the protest call, roads were blocked at several places, including Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Dholpur, and Jhalawar, and dharnas were staged, police said. But there has been no news of any untoward incident, they said.
In Maharashtra’s Karad, a ‘rasta roko’ was staged which prompted the police to detain at least 40 protesters, including senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan’s wife Satvasheela Chavan and farmers, said a police officer.
Effects of the protest were felt in southern parts too, with peasants and Congress and Left workers staging dharna in various parts of Telangana. Police had to intervene and several people were taken into preventive custody. In neighbouring Karnataka too, as many as 30 people were taken into preventive custody in state capital Bengaluru.
The call for the nationwide “chakka jam” was given by the farmer unions protesting the Centre’s farm laws at the Delhi borders. The three-hour-long agitation was announced to register protest against the internet ban in areas near the protest sites, alleged harassment meted out to farmers by the authorities and other issues.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh demanding rollback of 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 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.
(With inputs from agencies)