The proposed farmers’ protest, namely ‘Chalo Delhi’, to be held on February 13 has shaken the union and the state governments once again, resulting in the governments employing repressive tactics against the protesting farmers in attempts to stop them from entering Delhi. From sealing of borders, cement barricades, converting stadiums into make-shift prisons to imposing prohibitory orders, deploying para-military and imposing internet shutdowns, the state and union governments are leaving no stone unturned from ensuring that the protests do not take place.
This is reminiscent of the farmers’ protest of the year 2020, while the country was grappling with corona virus, farmers of India were protesting against the controversial farm laws that had been introduced by the Modi government, demanded for its repeal. Their protest of one year, which also saw the union and the state government employing repressive and violent tactics and resulting in the loss of many protestors, , had reaped results with the union government taking back the three laws in November of 2021. The farmers, who had welcomed the decision with opens arms on the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, had even then said that their fight is far from over as their union government is yet to address their demands.
It is essential to highlight here that on the evening of February 8, a three-membered team of Union ministers, namely Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai, had held a detailed discussion with the leaders of farmer organisations. As per the Week, the said meeting had also saw the attendance of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann. As stated by Jagjit Singh Dallewal, representing the farmers union, “We had a meeting with the Government today. The meeting was held in a positive atmosphere, Punjab Govt took the initiative. We presented all our demands in detail, with facts…The government listened to us & said that they will examine all our facts seriously.”
It was also provided by the leader that while the union ministers have assured them that they would hold a second round of the meeting soon, their proposed ‘Delhi Chalo’ march on February 13 still stands.
“Our programme for 13th February will continue as it is”, Dallewal had asserted.
The second meeting with the same three union ministers is to be held today, on February 12, at 5 pm in Chandigarh as provided by Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarvan Singh Pandher.
The march, the demands
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha- Non-Political and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha had recently announced ‘Delhi Chalo’ march by more than 200 farmers’ unions, mostly from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab, on February 13 to demand from the union government to accept their long-standing demand of enactment of a law to guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) for their produce. A gathering of lakhs of participants in the protest is being anticipated. It is crucial to point out that that a law on MSP by the union government was one of the conditions that the farmers had set when they agreed to withdraw their agitation in 2021. Even after more than two years, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government is yet to deliver their promises.
To provide a brief of the importance of MSP, a minimum support price is the rate at which the government buys farm produce and is based on a calculation of at least one and a half times the cost of production incurred by farmers.
Besides a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP), the farmers are also demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations which provided for safeguarding the interest of small farmers and addressing the issue of increasing risk overtaking agriculture as a profession. In addition to this, pensions for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waiver, withdrawal of police cases and “justice” for victims of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence also form a part of the demands made. As provided by Mandeep Punia, a local journalist from Punjab and Haryana, they farmers have also raised a demand for 200 days’ daily wage and Rs 700 per daily wage for MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) workers.
The preparation by governments to impede, supress protest
Haryana: To join the march in Delhi, farmers have planned to come from the Ambala-Shambhu border, Khanauri-Jind and the Dabwali border. As per multiple media reports, ahead of farmers proposed ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, 50 companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed by the Haryana Police with the aim of “maintaining law and order” in the state. As per a report on India Today, the authorities asserted the reason behind using paramilitary force is to ensure that nobody will be allowed to disturb peace and harmony. Notably, these central paramilitary forces comprise of Rapid Action Force and Central Reserve Police Force.
As per the statement given by a senior Haryana Police officer to the PTI, request for deploying 65 companies as paramilitary force had been made but only 50 were given. The officer stated that “Where these forces need to be deployed, we have done that.”
The India Today report also provides that the police have asked the farmers to not participate in the march without attaining the required permission and have also warned of strict action if they damage public property. Threats of compensation of any loss to government property caused to be compensated by attaching the property and seizing bank accounts of the protesters have also been issued by the police officials. Furthermore, they have also cautioned the farmers from giving their vehicles on rent or to any farmer, threatening to impound such vehicles and cancel its registration.
A video of police officials going around villages in the state and making such threats also surfaced on social media. In the video, posted by a local reporter named Mandeep Punia, police can be heard using a loud speaker and stating that any villager is found to be participating in the protest will have strict action taken against them, have their vehicles seized and their passports cancelled.
The video can be viewed here:
हरियाणा के गाँव गाँव जाकर पुलिस किसानों को आंदोलन में शामिल न होने की धमकी देते हुए इस भाषा का इस्तेमाल कर रही. pic.twitter.com/jLvJs95KUc
— Mandeep Punia (@mandeeppunia1) February 11, 2024
It is critical to emphasise here that to stop the farmers from protesting, as provided by the India Today report, the police have stocked up concrete blocks, barbed wire, sandbags, barricades and other items at the Shambhu border in Ambala to stop the protesters from marching towards the national capital. As per officials, directions have been issued by police official to petrol pump dealers in Ambala for not giving fuel to those who are sporting farmer’s union flags on their vehicles. Additionally, the police officials have stated that water cannon vehicles and drone have also been deployed at the Shambhu border. The Ambala district magistrate has imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in the district. These repressive tactics by the state come as the farmer unions in Ambala make preparations for the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march.
As per a report in the Livemint, the BJP-led state government of Haryana has also made other elaborate arrangements besides security, and have sealed the state’s border joining Punjab with barbed wires and concrete blocks to hamper the proposed ‘Dilli Chalo’ march by the agitated farmers. According to the statement of a senior police official in Jind district, from the India Today report, arrangements to seal entry point from Punjab include barbed wires, containers, barricades and concrete blocks, etc. In furtherance to this, the Haryana government has also suspended internet services in seven districts of the State from February 11 till February 13 and has ordered for bulk SMS services to be suspended. As per India Today, till the writing of this report, services have been suspended in districts including Ambala, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa.
Visual from Shambhu border can be viewed here:
Shambu Border sealed by the Haryana Police with big stones and barricades, security being enhanced in Ambala in view of farmers’ call for a march to Delhi scheduled for 13th February. #ShambuBorder #FarmersProtest pic.twitter.com/ikCqmZHQzg
— Gagandeep Singh (@Gagan4344) February 10, 2024
As per the report of Times of India, the Haryana police had laid a five layered barricading at the Nation Highway with concrete blocks, jersey barriers, spikes, barbed wires and iron barricades. The same can be viewed through the video:
BJP Govt goes on backfoot ahead of the Farmers’ Protest 2.0
BJP Govt sealed the Haryana-Punjab border today using barricades & iron nails ahead of Farmers’ march towards Delhi on Feb 13th.
BJP Govt also banned mobile internet in several districts near the… pic.twitter.com/Wjxi82KwoM
— Ankit Mayank (@mr_mayank) February 10, 2024
Notably, as per the TOI report, a mock drill had also been conducted by the Haryana police at Shambhu Border wherein the police had fired tear gas shells at some youth who had gathered on Punjab side.
Delhi: On February 11, an order imposing Section 144 of the CrPC was issued by the Delhi Police through which large gatherings were prohibiting at all borders between the national capital and Uttar Pradesh, as per Hindustan Times. The same prohibitory orders have also been imposed in areas under the jurisdiction of the North-East Delhi district. Under the said order, vehicles carrying protestors from entering Delhi have also been banned. It is essential to note that the orders imposed in Delhi will be active from February 11, Sunday, and will remain in place till March 11, 2024.
“Information has been received that some farmer organisations have given a call to their supporters to gather/march to Delhi on 13th February for their demands of the law on MSP and others. They are likely to sit at the border of Delhi till their demands are met. In order to avoid any untoward incident and to maintain Law & Order, a precautionary Order of section 144 Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, is required to be issued to save the lives and property in the area“, Delhi Police told ANI.
The social media post can be viewed here:
Information has been received that some farmer organisations have given a call to their supporters to gather/march to Delhi on 13th February for their demands of the law on MSP and others. They are likely to sit at the border of Delhi till their demands are met. In order to avoid… pic.twitter.com/1KXTYDiGDl
— ANI (@ANI) February 11, 2024
Make-shift jails for those detained:
As per a report of the NDTV, the Haryana government has converted two large stadiums, namely the Chaudhary Dalbir Singh Indoor Stadium in Sirsa, and Guru Gobind Singh Stadium in Dabwali, into makeshift jails ahead of the planned march with the objective of them serving as temporary jails to keep detained farmers. As provided in the said report, sources have stated that in case of any untoward situation during the march, farmers who are detained or arrested in large numbers will be kept in the temporary jails.
Media not allowed to cover protest:
As per the report of TOI, even media coverage has not been allowed by the Ambala police, as media persons from the Haryana side were prohibited from reaching the Shambhu border to see the situation and cover the matter. The media persons were stopped at Devi Nagar toll plaza. Furthermore, some media-persons who tried to do coverage from the Patiala, Punjab side, were also stooped and asked to leave the spot by the Haryana police officials.
Refusing to bow down, farmers gear up for protests
Videos of farmers proceeding towards Delhi, in the face of the coercive state employed tactics, have been surfacing on social media. In one such video, police can be seen standing beside the barricades that have been put on the road to restrain farmers from joining the march. As the barricades stand, a tractor going around those barricades with the police unable to stop the protestors from exercising their fundamental right to protest can be seen. Many more protestors can then be seen coming after the tractor, removing the barricades itself and carrying on with their journey to join the march in Delhi.
The video can be viewed here:
Farmers are unstoppable!
— Hate Detector 🔍 (@HateDetectors) February 12, 2024
Opposition, leaders raise questions on laying of spikes, cement barricades
Aam Aadmi Party leader and Chief Minister of Punjab Bhagwant Mann has urged the Centre to listen to farmers’ demands instead of setting up “borders between India and Punjab”. Expressing his anguish, Mann said “They [Haryana government] are installing fencing on the Punjab border. I request the central government to engage in talks with farmers. Please avoid creating an India-Punjab ‘border’.”
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) also slammed the state government’s attempts of blocking of roads. “Why is the government scared? Huge barricading is being done. Is this democracy?” SKM leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal rather stated in a message that “If the situation turns bad, it will be the responsibility of the Khattar government.”
Indian National Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi took to ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) and wrote that putting such hurdles in the path of farmers is state government’s injustice to their cause. In her post, she said “laying spikes and thorns in the path of farmers is it Amrit Kaal or injustice time? Due to this insensitive and anti-farmer attitude, 750 farmers lost their lives. What kind of characteristic is it of the government to work against the farmers and then not even allowing them to raise their voice? Priyanka said that the central government neither made the MSP law for the farmers nor doubled the income of the farmers. In such a situation, if the farmers do not come to the government, where will they go? He asked the Prime Minister, why is the country’s farmers being treated like this? The promise made to the farmers was not fulfilled.”
The post can be viewed here:
किसानों के रास्ते में कील-काँटे बिछाना अमृतकाल है या अन्यायकाल?
इसी असंवेदनशील एवं किसान विरोधी रवैये ने 750 किसानों की जान ली थी। किसानों के खिलाफ काम करना, फिर उनको आवाज भी न उठाने देना – कैसी सरकार का लक्षण है?
किसानों से किया वादा पूरा नहीं किया- न MSP का कानून बनाया, न… pic.twitter.com/xdTUVQr3yz
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) February 11, 2024