Hundreds of farmers Thursday blocked railway tracks in the National Capital Region (NCR) as part of the nationwide protest against the new farm laws.
About 400 farmers blocked tracks near Palwal’s Atoha village. Tekchand, 60, a farmer from Dhatir, sat on his tractor and watched the proceedings from a distance. “I am old, so sitting on the tracks or standing for long is a problem for me. That is why I prefer to watch from far,” said Tekchand, who has been a part of the protest since December, when the demonstration at Palwal was being spearheaded by farmers from Madhya Pradesh. With the MP farmers leaving after the January 26 violence, local residents have taken on the mantle.
“Earlier, we came in the day and left at night, but since the farmers from MP were pressured into leaving, we remain at the protest site round the clock. We will not let their efforts or our cause go in vain,” said Hargopal, a farmer from Palwal’s Sailothi village.
Around noon, the farmers, most of them from Palwal district, sat on the tracks. For the next two-and-a-half hours, a tractor served as a makeshift stage and loudspeakers mounted onto an e-rickshaw aired speeches, slogans and songs.
Palwal SP Deepak Gahlawat confirmed that the protests remained peaceful. “We deployed about 500-600 personnel at various points along the tracks. The event went off smoothly, there was no confrontation or violence.” Similar blockades were held at one place in Faridabad, two in Rewari, and one in Gurgaon, all of which, officials said, were peaceful.
Some tractor trolleys reached the site of the blockade at Palwal, carrying food. “The food is not just for us but for any commuter who may be inconvenienced because of the blockade,” said Rajkumar, a farmer from Gugera village in Palwal.
At Modinagar station in Uttar Pradesh, Aman Singh had stretched out, his head resting on the railway tracks.
“We made a mistake voting for them (BJP). Not again. These three laws are the last straw that will end the BJP,” said the 72-year-old, a farmer from Modinagar and a member of the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s (BKU) local unit.
Most of those who blocked tracks were sugarcane growers, a popular crop in the area.
Rajiv Kumar, 52, a sugarcane farmer, said “The farmers do not want these laws. We have been sitting on dharna for months… This is the behaviour which wiped out BJP in the Punjab civic polls, and the same will happen in western UP in the upcoming elections.”
At the protest site, local farmer leaders asked protesters to send more people to Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur protest sites.
While the blockade was to be held from 12 pm to 4pm, farmers at Modinagar began wrapping up by 3.30 pm, with local BKU leaders saying the leadership had decided on an early end to the blockade.
At Sonipat, the demonstration began at noon and continued till 4 pm.
Rajender Singh (56) from Sisana village in Sonipat, who grows wheat in his two-acre land, said, “Despite 11 meetings, the government did not listen to us. They do not want to resolve it. These laws are a death warrant for farmers.”
Most farmers said they feared that the government mandis would die a slow death if the laws come into force.
Ishwar Singh (52), who grows sugarcane in his 2.5 acre land in Bhatgaon village, and is convener of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, said, “If they kill the mandis, corporate players may not pay farmers as per MSP after a few seasons, citing lack of quality. Where shall the farmer sell then?”
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