Since the morning of February 11, social media is full of videos and photos showcasing the security measures being employed by the state government of Haryana and the union government against the protestors gearing up for the ‘Chalo Delhi’ march to be scheduled to take place on February 13. Reports show the repressive tactics that the State is using in attempts to prohibit the protesting farmers from reaching Delhi, which include imposition of internet shutdown, sealing of borders, cement barricades, spikes, barbed wires and deployment of paramilitary forces, as they prepare for the scheduled protest. Notably, a petition has been moved before the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging these aforementioned “obstructive actions” of the Union and State governments with the objective of “preventing the farmers from exercising their constitutional right to assembly and protest peacefully.”
The said plea has been moved by Uday Pratap Singh, a Chandigarh based lawyer, to urge judicial intervention and issuance of an urgent interim order to stay these “obstructive actions”. It is also essential to note that through the said petition, the plea has also raised questions against the suspension of mobile internet services and bulk SMS in several districts of Haryana including Ambala, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad, and Sirsa. As per a report of LiveLaw, the petition has highlighted that these suspension of services “further exacerbate the situation, depriving the citizens of their right to information and communication.”
The petitioner has also emphasised upon the constant denial of the authorities to hear and take action on the demands being raised by the farmers in regards to Minimum Support Price. As per a report in LiveLaw, the petitioner has stated “The arbitrary and illegal non-payment of Minimum Support Price sparked a deep sense of discontentment and betrayal among the hardworking farmers of the state. This unjust decision inflicted trauma upon the impoverished farming community. Despite the farmers’ pleas for the government to honour their rightful demand for at least the minimum support price (MSP) for their produce, the authorities have turned a deaf ear to their concerns.”
Claiming the actions being undertaken by the State to be violative of the fundamental rights of citizens to move freely and assemble peaceful, guaranteed to citizens under Article 19 of the Constitution, the petitioner seeks for an independent inquiry into alleged arbitrary actions, including police intimidation and installation of obstacles.
Meanwhile, a meeting between the farm leaders and three members of the Union cabinet is supposedly taking place in Chandigarh. These ministers, namely Piyush Goyal (Food Minister), Arjun Munda (Union Agriculture Minister) and Nityanand Rai (Minister of State for Home Affairs), are holding a second round of these talks with the farmer leaders to address their concerns and demands. It is essential to note that at the first talk, the three ministers had told the farmers that their demands could not be accepted without consulting multiple Ministries.
Many detained, many face hurdles in reaching Delhi
As per a report of The Telegraph, around a hundred farmers from Karnataka, who were travelling in train to Delhi with the aim of taking part in the scheduled protest, were stopped at Bhopal by the state police. These claims were made by Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) South India Convenor Shanthakumar during a press conference. As per the report, Shanthakumar stated that he was also travelling with the group in the train and “the police stopped us at the Bhopal station, and some of our members were injured,” as per Telegraph. Shanthakumar also provided that he was somehow able to reach the national capital still.
At the same conference meeting, Shanthakumar also clarified that around 23 Mahapanchayat meetings had been held across the country before announcing the march, and the protest had been planned three months before and were not spontaneous.
As per a report of the Hindu, SKM- Non-Political leader Shiv Kumar Kakka, who is also a former RSS functionary, had been detained by the Madhya Pradesh police on February 11. Kakka was on his way to Chandigarh when the said arrest had taken place. As per his statement, Kakka was about to board a train to participate in the second round of talks with the union ministers. According to the Hindu report, Kakka said “I was about to board a train to Chandigarh to participate in Monday’s discussions. I was arrested and taken to the police station. I understand that hundreds of SKM-NP’s activists have also been sent to jail. I was released after three hours. But I will go to Chandigarh at any cost to participate in the protests. The Centre is vitiating the atmosphere by arresting farmers.”
A report of Naiduniya reported that farmer leaders of the United Kisan Morcha and its associated organizations were being arrested in different districts of Madhya Pradesh. The report asserts that about 150 farmer leaders of the state have been detained at the police station, while many are being sent to jail. As provided by the report, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) state president Anil Yadav was arrested from MP Nagar Bhopal police station, Mahendra Singh Tomar from Rajgarh, senior Kisan Sabha leader Ramnarayan Kureria from Jabalpur. District Vice President of Kisan Sangharsh Committee in Gwalior, Shatrughan Yadav and Shiv Kumar Kakka have been arrested in Bhopal.
Rakesh Tikait, farmer leader and national spokesperson of BKU, took to ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) to express his anguish at the arrest of farmer leaders by the authorities of Madhya Pradesh and demand their release. In his post, Tikait stated “On the instructions of the Central Government, the state president of Madhya Pradesh Anil Yadav and Aradhana Bhargava have been arrested by the police and sent to jail. The government wants to make Bharat Bandh unsuccessful and suppress the voice of farmers. The government should release them with immediate effect.”
His post can be viewed here:
केंद्र सरकार के इशारे पर मध्य प्रदेश में @OfficialBKU के प्रदेश अध्यक्ष अनिल यादव और आराधना भार्गव को पुलिस ने गिरफ्तार कर जेल भेज दिया है सरकार भारत बंद को असफल व किसानों की आवाज को दबाना चाहती है सरकार इन्हें तत्काल प्रभाव से रिहा करें।@CMMadhyaPradesh@DGP_MP@PMOIndia@ANI
— Rakesh Tikait (@RakeshTikaitBKU) February 11, 2024
In addition to this, Indore saw leaders associated with farmer organizations being made to sit in the police station, including the Depalpur and Saver police stations, on the morning of February 12. It was asserted by them that the arrests of the farmer leaders were a part of the government’s attempt to stop the march to Delhi by the United Kisan Morcha on February 13 and to suppress the call for Gramin Bharat Bandh on February 16. It has been alleged by many that the state police also arrested houses of farm leaders late in the evenings of February 11.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also posted on ‘X’ regarding the detention of the famer leaders and highlighted the intimidation tactic of the BJP-led state government of Madhya Pradesh. In his post, Siddaramaiah condemned the said detentions and wrote “By arresting and intimidating them, the farmers’ struggle cannot be suppressed. Such repression might only lead more farmers to take to the streets, but the struggle of the sons and daughters of the soil will not cease. If the central government truly cares about peace and order, it should immediately meet the demands of the farmers and resolve the issue, rather than repressing and brutalizing them to silence. Whether it’s at the center or in the states, whenever BJP comes to power, history bears witness that their first act of aggression is against the farmers. The first time BJP came to power in Karnataka, farmers asking for fertilizer were ruthlessly shot down by the government led by B.S. Yediyurappa. Several farmers died due to the violence inflicted on protesting farmers in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh by Narendra Modi’s government at the center.”
His post can be viewed here:
The arrest of Hubballi farmers by the Madhya Pradesh government, as they were heading to a protest in Delhi tomorrow, is highly condemnable.
I demand that the Madhya Pradesh government immediately release all the farmers from our state who have been arrested and allow them to…
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) February 12, 2024
Another protest by farmers announced, this time by SKM
The original SKM, which had super headed the previous one year long farmers protest against the three controversial farm laws, have also announced a rural and industrial strike on February 16, in collaboration with ten Central Trade Unions (CTUs). As per the report of the Hindu, in a joint statement here on Sunday, the SKM and the unions urged the Narendra Modi-led union government to learn lessons from the growing discontent among the farming community and workers of European countries and reconsider its pro-corporate policies, which are being intensified in India.
“SKM has strongly objected to the policy proposed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to permit corporate forces, including trans-national corporations, to take over post-harvest operations in agriculture, control and dominate food production, and the value-added consumer product market. Corporate agriculture is not a panacea for the agrarian crisis; rather, it will further deteriorate the plight of the farmers and workers in India,” the statement said.
In furtherance to this, the SKM has also asserted said that the rural bandh on February 16 would take place from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., with all agricultural activities, works under MGNREGA scheme, and other rural and farm works being boycotted. “The supply and purchase of vegetables, other crops will remain suspended; all the village shops, grain markets, vegetable markets, government and non-government offices, rural, industrial and service sector institutions and enterprises in private sector are requested to remain closed. The shops and establishments of towns remain closed for the strike hours,” the SKM said, as per the Hindu, adding that normal public and private transport would remain off the roads.
“Ensure passage to emergency services of ambulance, death, marriage, medical shops, newspaper supply, board exam candidates, and passengers to the airport,” the SKM said in the statement.