Thousands of farmers marched towards Delhi on Tuesday pressing for demands ranging from farm loan waiver to cut in fuel prices, defying the prohibitory orders issued by the Delhi Police in east and north-east Delhi. The farmer protest march called by the Bhartiya Kisan Union blocked traffic movement on the arterial roads leading to the national capital.
The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesting farmers after they broke barricades in a bid to enter Delhi.
All national highways leading to Delhi were choc a bloc with farmers coming in from places as far as Gonda, Basti and Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh besides the sugarcane belt of western UP, triggering memories of the massive protest by almost 5 lakh farmers spearheaded by BKU founder Mahendra Singh Tikait at Delhi’s Boat Club in October 1988.
Quoting BKU president Naresh Tikait, ANI posted on Twitter: “Why have we been stopped at UP-Delhi border? The rally was proceeding in a disciplined manner. If we don’t tell our government about our problems then whom do we tell? Do we go to Pakistan or Bangladesh?”
Justifying the police action, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the Delhi Police only defended itself against some aggressive protesters. According to reports, he met met Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan and farmers leaders at his residence on Tuesday and is said to be closely monitoring the situation.
The Kisan Kranti Yatra began from Tikait Ghat in Haridwar on September 23. Farmers joined the rally from various parts of UP, coming on foot, in buses and tractor trolleys carrying banners of Bhartiya Kisan Union.
“We are not seeking any alms from the government. We want our right,” PTI quoted farmer Harmik Singh, who came from Meerut, as saying.
Farmers said they were distressed because of high electricity prices and fuel rates. “Aap ko 500 rupiya ka gas theek lagta hai? (Does LPG price of Rs 500 sound right to you,” Singh asked.
Over 3 lakh farmers reportedly plan to march towards Rajghat. with their list of 21 demands including implementation of the MS Swaminathan Commission report, unconditional loan waiver for farmers, clearing of dues by sugar mills, higher prices for crops, free electricity for farms and a cut in diesel prices.
On Monday, the Delhi Police issued prohibitory orders in east and north-east Delhi on Monday stating that farmers’ march had the potential to disrupt traffic and create law and order problems.
The march elicited support from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Samajwadi Party leader and former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
“Farmers should be allowed to enter Delhi. Why are they not being allowed to enter Delhi? This is wrong. We are with the farmers,” said Kejriwal.
On the other hand, Yadav said: “This government has not fulfilled the promises it made to farmers, so it is all but natural that farmers would protest. It is unfortunate and we fully support the farmers.”