Farmers took to the roads and blocked highways in various parts of the country as they held a ‘Bharat Bandh’ and ‘chakkajam’ in protest against the farm Bills that were passed in the monsoon session of Parliament.
The agitation was especially intense in Punjab, where farmers’ organisations had called for a Punjab bandh, Haryana and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.
Many political parties, including the long-term NDA ally Akali Dal, the Opposition Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Trinamool Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal, supported the nationwide strike call given by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), All India Farmers Union (AIFU), All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) and All India Kisan Mahasangh (AIKM), among others.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the opposition parties were “lying” to the farmers about the bills and “misleading” them. He said the Bills will ensure that farmers get the right price for their produce.
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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to protests against the Bills. “The flawed GST destroyed MSMEs. The new agriculture laws will enslave our farmers,” he tweeted.
Protesting farmers blocked the highways connecting Delhi with Amritsar, in Punjab, and Meerut, in Uttar Pradesh, and also the one between Punjab and Haryana. In the south, traffic was affected on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu highway due to the protests. Traffic jams stretching to a few kilometres were also reported on the Ayodhya-Lucknow highway due to the protests.
The farmers fear that the Bills will pave the way for the removal of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) offered by the central government.
In Punjab, life was affected in almost all districts, including Bathinda, Jalandhar, Patiala, Barnala, Faridkot, Muktsar and Mansa. Farmers from 31 groups organised under the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) blocked all the main highways in the state affecting supply of essential commodities. In Muktsar, Shirmoni Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal led a tractor rally with his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who resigned from the Union Cabinet as food processing minister in protest against the farm Bills.
Badal said chief minister Amarinder Singh should call a Cabinet meeting and pass an ordinance declaring that state to be one ‘mandi’ to make sure the farm Bills cannot be enforced in Punjab.
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The busy Punjab-Haryana border near Ambala was sealed as farmers started gathering in large numbers.
Farmers in Amritsar and Firozepur continued their rail roko agitation that they started on Thursday (September 24). The sat on rail tracks on Friday, too; the protest will end only on Saturday (September 26). Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of the Congress-ruled had announced earlier that no FIRs will be filed against protestors violating prohibitory orders. The protests in Punjab have received support from many popular atrists such as Diljit Dosanjh.
Many places in Haryana also witnessed a large turnout of farmers protesting against the Bills. All major roads, including highways, were blocked. There wasn’t much problem in Gurugram near Delhi.
In Noida, police in riot gear were deployed to stop protesting farmers from proceeding to Delhi.
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Farmers in Maharashtra marched in large numbers carrying banners and posters in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Palghar, Pune, Nashik, Kolhapur, Beed, Aurangabad, Nanded and Yavatmal. They raised slogans against the Centre for passing the “anti-farmer” bills.
The protests, organised by the All India Kisan Sabha and the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, among others, were supported by the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), allies in the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi.
Protests were reported from almost all parts of Karnataka, with farmers from many places flocking to state capital Bengaluru. They blocked the Tumakuru Road. Many agitating farmers were taken into custody by the police. In northern Karnataka, too, farmers blocked roads.
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RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav was among the prominent leaders to lead farmers’ protest in Bihar, which is going to Assembly polls next month. Yadav took part in a tractor rally in Patna.
Farmers in Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu carried skulls in their hands as a mark of protest even as agriculture minister R Doraikannu said the Bills will not harm the farmers. The AIADMK government in the state will not allow any bill that hurts farmers’ interests, he said.