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States turn fortresses ahead of farmers’ march to Delhi

Thousands of paramilitary and police personnel in riot gear behind multiple layers of metal barriers with barbed wires and spikes guarded the state borders to halt the proposed “Dilli Chalo” march of cultivators to the Capital on Tuesday, even as farmer leaders were detained in Madhya Pradesh to stop them from joining the agitation.

Traffic at Derabassi – Ambala Highway due to diversions ahead of the farmers’ march on Tuesday. (Ravi Kumar/HT photo)

Protracted talks between Union ministers Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai, Punjab minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal and protesting farmers ended in an impasse on Monday night, with spokespersons of farmers organisations confirming the march will continue. Farmers will now head for Delhi from their respective states at 10am on Tuesday, protesters said after the meeting, which ended after 11pm on Monday.

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Different farm bodies called for the march demanding a national law on minimum support prices (the price at which the government buys foodgrain from farmers), withdrawal of all cases registered during 2020-21 farmers’ protest around Delhi and a monthly pension of 10,000 for farmers above 60 years of age. At least 15 farmer unions are participating in the march. Some other farmer collectives have called for a Bharat Bandh on February 16.

By Monday afternoon, Haryana had deployed thousands of paramilitary personnel along with the state police to deal with what was dubbed as “Dilli Chalo 2.0”. Prohibitory orders were imposed in 16 out of 22 districts by Monday morning. Internet was suspended in seven districts till Tuesday midnight. Some district administrators also ordered fuel pump owners not to fill more than 10 litres of diesel in tractors and told them not to sell fuel in open drums.

Haryana police have warned farmers that their passports will be cancelled and tractors would be impounded with their registration cancelled if they joined the protest.

Across Haryana at the areas that shares borders with Punjab and Delhi, authorities have put in place multiple layers of metal and jersey barriers, barbed wires, spikes, tear gas shells, sandbags, drones and CCTV cameras.

Unlike in 2020, when the farmers protested against three agricultural laws under the banner of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), no prominent organisations from Haryana are part of the agitation this time. Gurnam Singh Charuni, head of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni) who was a prominent face of the previous stir, is not part of the protest this time. Neither is the Naresh Tikait-led Bharatiya Kisan Union that has followers in the sugarcane growing belt in the north. The protests are being led under the banner of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (Apolitical) and Kisan Mazdoor Morcha, including several breakaway factions of mainstream farmer bodies in Haryana and Punjab. Police in Madhya Pradesh detained farmer leaders on their way to participate in the protest in Delhi on Tuesday. Farmers from Karnataka on their way to participate in the protest were disembarked at Bhopal railway station on Sunday night and detained under section 151 of the Indian Penal Code.

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“All the farmers are safe and secure. They were not arrested. They are staying in a marriage hall where they are being provided all the food and other facilities,” Ramji Shrivastava, deputy commissioner of police, Bhopal, said

Karnataka chief minister Siddramaiah slammed the detention of farmer leaders from the state in Madhya Pradesh, saying the move showed the anti-farmer attitude of the BJP. “I demand the MP government to immediately release all the farmers who have been arrested,” he said in a post on X.

In Madhya Pradesh, Aam Kisan Union leader Ram Inaniya was detained from Narmadapuram, and Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Shivkumar Sharma and president Anil Yadav were detained in Bhopal. In a Whatsapp message, Yadav said he was sent to jail on Sunday night and police had kept Sharma at some undisclosed location.

“No arrest has been made so far and police are just talking to them as section 144 has been imposed in Delhi. To maintain law and order, they can’t be allowed to go there,” said Awadesh Goswami, deputy commissioner of police, Bhopal.

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In Uttar Pradesh, district administrations in Noida, Ghaziabad, Meerut and Baghpat issued prohibitory orders. Rajasthan imposed curfew in the three districts of Sriganganagar, Anupgarh and Hanumangarh bordering Punjab and Haryana. “Our teams are keeping a close eye on areas such as Alwar and Bharatpur (which share borders with Uttar Pradesh and Haryana). Necessary action will be taken if any violation is reported,” said Vishal Bansal, Rajasthan’s additional director general of police, law and order.

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