Crowds of farmers pour in as sobbing Tikait says ‘no surrender’

Around 500 protestors stayed put at UP Gate with more pouring in from western UP on the call of BKU

Tikait
BKU's Rakesh Tikait was among those who attended the khap mahapanchayat

In a quick turn of events, when farmers’ protest at Ghazipur seemed at its imminent end, a tearful farmer leader Rakesh Tikait’s assertion to continue with it triggered a fresh wave of arrivals of farmers at the protest site, despite the Ghaziabad administration’s ultimatum to vacate it.

Thursday witnessed heavy deployment of policemen at the UP Gate site and a confrontation was building up even as frequent power cuts were witnessed in the evening at the protest site, where Bharatiya Kisan Union leader (BKU) members, led by Rakesh Tikait, are staying put since November 28.

In a post-midnight review of situation, Ghaziabad District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey and Senior Superintendent of Police Kalanidhi Naithani visited the protest where hundreds of security personnel in anti-riot gears were deployed since Thursday. However, excessive force was later withdrawn.

Flanked by supporters at 1 am, Tikait remained at the centre stage of the site — the Delhi-Meerut Expressway, which has been barricaded from both sides, prohibiting regular traffic. Around 500 protesters stayed put at UP Gate with more pouring in from western Uttar Pradesh in the night on the call of the BKU, an influential farmers union in North India.

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The sudden mobilisation of more protesters is being credited to the breaking down of Tikait in front of the media on Thursday. Sobbing on national television, Tikait declared he would rather commit suicide than surrender and end the protest against the farm laws. He further alleged that armed goons have been sent to the protest site.

Soon after, a crowd of followers, chanting slogans in Tikait’s support, started gathering outside his house in UP’s Sisauli while his brother Naresh Tikait, who had earlier agreed to vacate the Ghazipur protest site, announced a mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar to decide their next step, reported India Today.

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A Ghaziabad police officer said excess security force has been withdrawn from the Ghazipur site and only a minimal deployment of personnel remains there. “The tension was building at UP Gate due to excessive deployment of force since Thursday evening,” the officer said.

Several protesters waved the tricolour with some waving flags of farmer unions like Kisan Ekta Manch amid a continuous sloganeering of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”, while many were lying down on mattresses covered in blankets as they braved bone-chilling cold and wind.

“I can protest while standing up and you are asking whether I am going to continue my sit-in protest),” Jagat Singh Rathi, 78, said. With a muffler tied around his head and a stick in his hand for support while walking, the septuagenarian from Meerut said that he has been at the BKU’s protest since its beginning on November 28.

Asked if he would vacate the protest site following the administration’s communication, he said, “(UP Gate) khaali nahi karenge. We have not seen any such order to vacate the protest site. When the Supreme Court has said that farmers have a right to protest then what? We will do it.”

The “verbal” communication from the district administration to the BKU on Thursday came close on the heels of three farmer unions withdrawing their protest against the three farm laws over the violence in Delhi on Republic Day.

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“Ghaziabad District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey has communicated to the protesters camping at the UP Gate at Delhi border to vacate the spot by tonight or the administration will remove them,” a district official had told news agency PTI.

Thousands of protesting farmers have been protesting at Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh demanding the rollback of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the 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)

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