As has been expected since the beginning of this agitation in November 2020, farm protesters could not make a mark across the country on this big day they had assigned for their show of strength. Following the violence the farmers from Punjab and Haryana had indulged in on 26 January, they could on Saturday block key roads only in those states and Rajasthan while sporadic demonstrations were held in some other states during the 3 h chakka jam (vehicular strike) they had called to protest against the Narendra Modi government’s amendment of three laws related to agriculture aimed at freeing farmers from the clutches of middlemen-controlled APMC wholesale markets.
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait declared that their protest on Delhi’s outskirts will continue till 2 October. He said his Bharatiya Kisan Union would make an effort to “connect every village” with the agitation, but his ‘movement’ was hardly palpable in Uttar Pradesh beyond the protest sites.
Delhi Police detained and dispersed 50 odd protesters at Shaheedi Park in the national capital, amid stepped-up security by authorities. The government had already ordered a suspension of internet services at the demonstration sites of Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri and adjoining areas for 24 hours till tonight.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Metro authority closed entry and exit facilities at 10 prominent Delhi stations for a few hours.
Some protesters made a brief appearance on a few of the roads of Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka but were dispersed by the police even in the non-BJP states.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of the farmer unions protesting the three farm laws, had said yesterday that the peasants across the country will block national and state highways for three hours between 12 noon and 3 PM, except in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Tikait had earlier claimed he had received ‘inputs’ that “some miscreants would try to disrupt peace” during the chakka jam. “Because of these inputs, we had decided to call off the chakka jam in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand,” the 51-year-old BKU leader, who had managed to revive the farmers’ stir post-Republic Day riot by shedding copious tears on camera, said.
No untoward incident has been reported from anywhere during Saturday’s protest.
Punjab, Haryana witness partial success of chakka jam
Shouting slogans against the Modi government, many farmers parked their tractor-trailers or squatted in the middle of roads in Punjab and Haryana, blocking several highways, including the Chandigarh-Zirakpur, Amritsar-Pathankot, Tarn Taran-Kapurthala, Ferozepur-Fazilka, Muktsar-Kotkapura, Bathinda-Chandigarh, Ludhiana-Jalandhar, Panchkula-Pinjore and Ambala–Chandigarh highway
Cacophonous songs in hoary voices of unprofessional singers blared from loudspeakers at the protest sites.
Khalistan supporters resurfaced in the crowd of demonstrating farmers in parts of Punjab — as seen in Ludhiana in the image and video below.
A section of the demonstrating crowd made it a point that they were identified as patriots by perching atop trucks, tractors and trailers wielding the tricolour on the KMP Expressway.
Activists distributed biscuits and fruits among the demonstrators squatting on the tarmac of the road. Some of them made sure the crowd did not swell beyond control wherever chakka jam appeared to be successful. Additional incoming crowds were requested to return home.
“We don’t want to create any inconvenience for the people. That is precisely the reason why the call given was for three hours only. Security forces have been blocking – our and their passage — for so many days, we expect the ordinary citizens to co-operate with us for some hours at least,” said Ajit Ahluwalia, a 29-year-old farmer from Haryana’s Hisar.
Authorities in the national capital and elsewhere had intensified vigil on Saturday in the light of the violence during the farmers’ tractor parade on January 26 in Delhi.
In Rajasthan, farmers at many places like Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Dholpur and Jhalawar stalled traffic on the highways and main roads and held demonstrations, police said.
Chakka jam in Kolhapur, Maharashtra
The INC, communist and socialist parties held protests in some states in support of the chakka jam called by the agitating farmer unions — which did not appear to be resonating among the masses.
Maharashtra witnessed rasta roko (block the roads) protests in Karad and Kolhapur.
State police detained about 40 protesters, which included senior INC politician Prithviraj Chavan’s wife Satvasheela Chavan, for holding a protest on a busy road at the Kolhapur Naka (crossing and check post) in Karad in western Maharashtra this afternoon, a source in the local police force said.
Police in Maharashtra detained Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna leader Raju Shetti and others briefly in Kolhapur.
Police in Telangana refuse to permit strike
In Telangana, police said they had taken several people into preventive custody as politicians of opposition parties joined the farmers for rasta roko in certain parts of the state.
Farmers blocked highways in different parts of Karnataka to show their solidarity, following a call given by various farmers’ associations led by Kuruburu Shanthakumar. A few pro-Kannada organisations too came in support of the agitators.
The demonstrations were held in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Kolar, Koppal, Bagalkote, Tumakuru Davangere, Hassan, Mangaluru, Haveri, Shivamogga and Chikkaballapura and protesters courted arrest in some parts of the state.
Condemning the protests, Union Minister for Chemical and Fertilisers DV Sadananda Gowda said the Narendra Modi government has implemented the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee report to address the agrarian distress and farmers’ suicide.
Tamil Nadu activist says the strike was not meant to inconvenience public
Protests were held also in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu. This is part of the all-India stir “for seeking justice for farmers. This is not for political purposes or to inconvenience the general public,” president of the coordination committee of Tamil Nadu All Farmers’ Association PR Pandian told reporters.
INC sees leaders without followers
Prior to the nationwide chakka jam called by the farmer unions protesting the Modi government’s agricultural reform laws, former INC president Rahul Gandhi said the peaceful ‘satyagraha‘ of the ‘annadatas’ was in the national interest as the farm laws were “harmful” for the country.
Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also slammed the government over the issue of the agitating section of farmer by posting on Twitter a picture of the multi-layered barricading at one of the farmer protest sites. “Why are you scaring us with the wall of fear?” she tweeted along with the picture.
The INC had on 5 February extended support to the countrywide chakka jam, which today failed to be countrywide. The party had said party workers would stand shoulder to shoulder with farmers in their protest while it saw today that its ‘leaders’ hardly had followers.
Farmers’ agitation so far
Farmers largely from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh — where MSP beneficiaries of the country are concentrated — have been protesting since late November at Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh demanding the rollback of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporations.
However, the government maintains that the new laws will bring farmers better opportunities and usher in new technologies in agriculture.