The dawn to dusk 10-hour long nationwide ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by 40-member farmers’ front- Samyukt Kisan Morcha- to mark the completion of one year of their protest against the Central government’s agriculture laws on Monday passed off peacefully with no major untoward incident being reported from any part of the country.
The Bandh once again brought to fore the fissures among the political parties over the issue. The Congress, BSP, AAP, RJD and all the anti-BJP parties rallied behind the agitating farmers and slammed the ruling BJP led government at the Centre for allegedly being indifferent to the farmers’ plight.
Today’s bandh came following the failure of 10 rounds of talks between the farmers’ unions and the Union Agriculture Minister. Farmers’ who have been holding sit-in protests in various parts of the country and especially near the Sindhu border in the national capital alleged that the Modi government wanted to roll back the MSP, a charge since denied by the government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top leaders of the Central government have claimed that the three agriculture legislations namely 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, would benefit the country’s large section of small farmers.
The farmers’ movement which had suffered a setback after a tractor rally by them turned violent on 26 January this year gained momentum as BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, with past record of political hobnobbing, sought to rally support for the farmers’ agitation from across the country. Though he had denied any political motive behind spearheading the agitation, political pundits say the current agitation is being held keeping an eye on the next year’s assembly elections, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, which returns the maximum number of MPs to the Lok Sabha and hence decides the fate of the next incumbent at the Centre.
With farmers’ bandh dividing parties on political lines, its impact consequently was felt in the mostly non-BJP ruled states of Tamil Nadu, Chattisgarh, Kerala, Punjab, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh who extended their unequivocal support to the bandh.
In Andhra Pradesh, Left parties took part in the protest in front of the Vijayawada bus station as part of the Bharat Bandh.”It is a national protest against policies of the Central government. Farmers are protesting for the last 10 months against the farm laws,” state secretary of CPI (M) P Madhu said. Similar, anti-farm laws protests were witnessed outside the Kalaburagi Central bus station in Karnataka.
In Chennai police detained agitators after they rammed into police barricades in the Anna Salai area of Tamil Nadu’s Chennai.
CPI (M) leader K Balakrishnan warned the Centre against further intensifying farmers’ agitation. “Modi government has pass three anti-farmers legislatures. Farmers are continuously fighting against it for more than 11 months. If Modi is reluctantly denying the withdrawing of the legislation, the struggle will intensify further,” he said following his detention.
In Kerala, both the trade unions affiliated with the LDF and UDF came out in support of the bandh. The streets in Thiruvananthapuram wore a deserted look as shops were closed.
Earlier, Samyukta Kisan Morcha made a fervent appeal to every Indian to make the 6 am to 4 pm Bharat Bandh on Monday a success. “The SKM appeals to every Indian to join this nationwide movement and make the ‘Bharat Bandh’ a resounding success. In particular, we appeal to all organisations of workers, traders, transporters, businessmen, students, youth and women and all social movements to extend solidarity with the farmers that day,” the SKM said in a statement.
BKU’s Rakesh Tikait however said, “Ambulances, doctors or those going for an emergency can pass through. We’ve not sealed down anything, we just want to send a message. We appeal to the shopkeepers to keep their shops closed for now and open only after 4 pm. No farmer is coming here from outside.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi extended his party’s support to what he called farmers’ ‘non-violent satyagraha’. “Farmers’ non-violent satyagraha is intact even today. But the exploitative government does not like thi,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted. The Congress party had earlier instructed all party workers, state unit heads and organisation leaders to participate in the nationwide Bandh.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) September 27, 2021
RJD leader Mukesh Raushan and other members and workers of the party took part in a protest meeting in support of the Bandh in Hajipur. The RJD had on Sunday “requested all RJD workers to make this Bharat Bandh a success”.
Punjab state Congress head Navjot Singh Sidhu said his party firmly stands by the call for Bharat Bandh. “Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee firmly stands by farmer unions’ demand for Bharat Bandh on September 27, 2021. In the war of right and wrong, you cannot afford to be neutral. We urge every Congress worker to fight with all their might against the three unconstitutional black laws,” Sidhu tweeted.
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee firmly stands by Farmer Unions demand for Bharat Bandh on 27 Sept 2021. In the war of right and wrong you can not afford to be neutral !! We urge every Congress worker to fight with all their might against the three Unconstitutional Black Laws !!
— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) September 26, 2021
In Uttar Pradesh, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said, “The farmers of the country do not endorse the three farm laws brought in a hurry by the centre, and are sad about it. They have been protesting for the past 10 months in the country and aggressively, especially around Delhi.”
In Delhi ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Andhra Pradesh’s Telegu Desam Party (TDP) extended their support to the Bharat Bandh. The national capital was virtually turned into a fortress as the police personnel were deployed at various parts of the national capital to prevent any repeat of the 26 January unruly, massive mobilisation by farmers’ leaders. At Sindhu border one farmer reportedly died of heart attack.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), New Delhi, Deepak Yadav, said: “adequate security arrangements have been made as a precautionary measure”. “Pickets at the border areas have been strengthened and all vital installations, including India Gate and Vijay Chowk, will have adequate deployment,” he told the PTI. A police officer said no protestors had been allowed to enter the national capital from any of the three sites of protests here.
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation announced the closure of entry and exit gates at Pandit Shree Ram Sharma station on the green line section in view of the Bharat Bandh. People living in various parts of the national capital faced hardship because of heavy traffic as a result of the farmers’ protests. All roads leading to the Red Fort were also closed for any traffic movement.
Outside Delhi, however, roads leading to NCR areas of Gurugram in Haryana witnessed heavy traffic congestion. Delhi police personnel were seen checking vehicles seeking to enter the national capital through the Gurugram-Delhi border. In Punjab, farmers blocked the Shambhu border between Punjab and Haryana in support of the Bandh.
A North Railway official said the running of 25 trains on the Ambala-Ferozepur zone were affected as farmers sat on railway tracks at more than 20 places causing disruption of services.