A train carrying hundreds of farmers from Bathinda to Delhi was short terminated at Rohtak while another was diverted; at least 100 Twitter accounts sympathetic to farmers have been temporarily frozen; spikes are being embedded on roads near Delhi’s borders and temporary walls are being built on the main highway at the Singhu border while Haryana has banned internet in seven of its districts.
All the measures were implemented on Monday as soon as the farmers protesting at Delhi borders announced a nationwide strike or ‘chakka jam’ on Saturday (February 6).
It also came on a day the Union Budget, the first after the COVID-19 pandemic, was presented in Parliament.
On Monday, farmers travelling from Bathinda to Delhi on the Kisan Express to participate in the protest, had to get down at Rohtak railway station after the train was short-terminated. The Punjab Mail was also diverted from Rohtak to Rewari-Alwar, stranding several farmers bound for Delhi. The Ganganagar-Haridwar-Bathinda Express which reached the Rohtak railway station at 11.45 am was short terminated at Bahadurgarh in Haryana.
Twitter on the direction of the IT Ministry on Monday blocked around 100 accounts and 150 tweets related to the protest under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. A majority of the accounts had reportedly used the hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide in their tweets.
The accounts, however, were unblocked reportedly late on Monday evening after the content they posted were adjudged as “free speech” and “newsworthy”.
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“Pending our discussions with the regulatory authorities, we temporarily withheld these accounts in India under our Country Withheld Content policy in response to a valid legal request from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. During our subsequent meetings with the officials, Twitter conveyed that the accounts and tweets in question constitute free speech and are newsworthy. Therefore, these tweets and accounts have now been unwithheld. Protecting public conversation and transparency is fundamental to the work we do at Twitter,” Indian Express quoted a source as saying.
The suspended accounts include members of Kisan Ekta Morcha and Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), The Caravan, Prasar Bharti CEO Sashi Shekhar Vempati and actor Sushant Singh among others.
Iron nails were hammered in on the Rohtak Road at the protest site in Tikri, on the orders of Delhi police to stop vehicles from Haryana to the national capital. Workers under the watch of police personnel on Monday also hooked iron rods between two rows of cement barriers on a flank of the main highway at the Singhu border to further restrict the movement of protesters.
A makeshift cement wall has been erected on another portion of the highway at the Delhi-Haryana border.
The Haryana government on Monday extended the internet ban in seven districts till 5 pm of February 2 “to prevent any disturbance of peace and public order”.
The move comes days after the violent clashes between some protesters and police on January 26 during the tractor parade by the agitating farmers. The section of the highway at the Singhu border, which has been the epicentre of the farmers’ protests for over 60 days, had also seen a clash recently between farmers and a group of people who claimed to be local residents.
On Monday, the Delhi side of the Singhu border saw a sparse crowd of protesters while the Haryana side was dominated by vociferous speeches denouncing the new farm laws and clarion calls to infuse a new sense of solidarity in the agitation after the Republic Day incident. Security personnel from the paramilitary forces, RAF and CRPF, were seen in relatively less numbers compared to the past few days but a large number of police personnel manned the stretch spanking a mile from the protest site. Besides the makeshift wall on the highway, a small trench was also dug up earlier across an inner street a little off the highway and cement barricades put up on both the sides.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha has given a call to block national and state highways for three hours near agitation sites during the chakka jam on February 6.
(With inputs from agencies)