AS THE Paschim Express stopped at Ludhiana railway station, Gurpreet Singh Noorpura, district committee member of BKU Ugrahan, held up a mic and addressed the passengers: “We are sorry for the inconvenience, we have no choice but to lodge our protest as the government is not listening to us. Please come and sit with us to have tea and langar.”
On the call of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a ‘rail roko’ was organised by Punjab farmers at more than 90 locations in the state on Thursday. The Railways did not cancel/divert or short terminate any train. Instead, it halted the trains at several locations between 12 pm to 4 pm — the protest hours — later allowing them to proceed to their destinations. At these halting points, farmers who were protesting on the tracks against the Centre’s three farm laws, served langar to the stranded passengers.
Ferozepur Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Rajesh Aggarwal said seven trains were halted at different stations due to the protests, while three trains ran late from their point of origin.
The Paschim Express was stopped at Ludhiana. “This train started from Amritsar and reached Ludhiana at about 11.40 am. Its final destination was Bandra station, Mumbai. However, it stopped at Ludhiana’s platform no. 4. After the dharna was lifted from the tracks, train traffic was resumed. Paschim Express departed from Ludhiana railway station at 4.30 pm after we followed all safety protocols,” said Tarun Kumar, station director of Ludhiana railway station.
Farmers organised dharnas at Ludhiana railway station and over 90 other locations in Punjab. Over 500 passengers were sitting in the train when it reached Ludhiana and another 100 had to board from Ludhiana as well. “Stranded passengers were served langar and tea by farmers who were protesting on the tracks. A number of passengers even came out of the train to have langar, and farmers too went into the bogies to serve food and tea,” Noorpura told The Indian Express.
Rajesh Kumar, a passenger who boarded the train from Jalandhar, had to go to Mathura. “There is no doubt that waiting for four hours on a railway platform causes great inconvenience, but I feel that the government must resolve their issues. No protest should run for so long. Who likes to sit on tracks again and again?”
Firdaus Khan, another passenger who boarded the Paschim Express from Phagwara on his way to Faridabad, said, “I am originally from Kashmir. I do farming there, hence I fully support my farmer brothers and sisters. Their voices must be heard. They have been protesting for so long. It should end now.”
Another woman passenger who was travelling with a child said, “Due to the protests, many people are being indirectly affected, hence in this case lakhs of people are protesting and lakhs are getting indirectly affected. So when it comes to the masses, the issue should be resolved.”
Meanwhile, Malwa Express stopped at Phagwara for four hours while the Super Express waited at Jalandhar cantonment. Another Malwa Express coming from Jammu waited at Pathankot for four hours and Vande Bharat at Bari Brahmana. Sarvodaya Express was stopped at Kathua and a Sambalpur to Jammu train was stopped at Vijaypur.
Dhanbad Express started late from Ferozepur, as did Shaheed Express from Amritsar. Begampura Express too left late from Jammu Tawi, according to the DRM Ferozepur office.
Saudagar Singh Ghudani, president of BKU Ugrahan’s Ludhiana unit, said, “We have no personal enmity with passengers. We appealed them to bear with us. We appeal to the government to listen to us. Passengers too agree to us and no one was angry with us.”
Dharnas that started at noon wound up by 4 pm. BKU Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said, “We organised dharna at 22 places in 16 districts.” Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee (KMSC) general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said, “KMSC organised rail roko on the call of SKM at 31 locations in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran, Jalandhar, Ferozepur etc.”
Thirty farmer organisations protesting under the banner of SKM organised dharnas at more than 40 locations in Punjab — these included Barnala, Dhuri, Sunam, Sangrur railway stations etc.
In Punjab, protests against farm laws had started with ‘rail roko’ dharnas in September last year when members of KMSC and BKU Ugrahan had sat on tracks at 10 locations in the state. From October 1 onwards, all unions had started indefinite ‘rail roko’. BKU Ugrahan later lifted dharna only for freight trains on October 22, while the remaining unions did the same from November 5. The Centre however said it will start the trains only when farmers agree to allow passenger trains to run as well. Finally, trains were started on Punjab tracks from November 23 onwards.
However, even now, KMSC farmers are sitting in the parking area of Jandiala Guru railway station in Amritsar, due to which eight pairs of passenger trains have to be diverted/short terminated, said the DRM office. On Thursday as well, the Ferozepur DRM appealed to farmers to clear this track. Pandher however said, “We are sitting at Jandiala Guru and we will not allow passenger trains to run on this track till the time farm laws are not repealed. Freight trains can run as normal.”
Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of BKU Dakaunda, said, “We will decide our next plan on Thursday and Friday. We will make a formal announcement later. Our fight is against farm laws, but government does not seem to be serious about it. Hence, we have to raise our voice. Now more and more states are joining in, hence these voices cannot go unheard.”
He added, “Peace is our strength and it was observed everywhere in the country. We did not harass any passenger or staff at railway stations, rather farmers served langar to each and everyone.”
Jaswant Singh, a farmer from Ludhiana who participated in the ‘rail roko’ said, “Our langar came from four gurdwaras for thousands of people.
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