After two days of pitched battles with the police in Haryana and Delhi, the farmers protesting against the new agriculture laws were finally allowed by the Centre to enter the national capital, thus paving the way for a possible peaceful resolution to the imbroglio.
Delhi Police officials said the farmers have been allowed to hold peaceful protests at the Nirankari Ground at Burari in North Delhi. (Delhi Police falls under the direct control of the Union home ministry.)
Earlier in the day, agitating farmers at the Delhi-Haryana-Singhu border hurled stones and broke barricades as they clashed with the Delhi Police, which used tear gas on them.
Later, as the Centre allowed them into the city, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh tweeted: “I welcome the Centre’s decision to allow farmers to enter Delhi to exercise their democratic right to protest. They should also now initiate immediate talks to address farmers’ concerns on the #FarmLaws and resolve the simmering issue.”
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who on Thursday had vowed to leave politics if anyone tried to tinker with the Minimum Support Price (MSP) scheme, assured the agitating farmers that the central government was always ready for talks with them and that a solution could be arrived at through dialogue.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a conglomeration of farmers’ groups from across India that has been spearheading their march from Punjab to Delhi, said that the Centre’s move to allow a peaceful protest in Delhi was a sign of “surrender” by it.
The farmers had demanded that they be allowed to hold their protest at the Ramlila ground, closer to the heart of the city, but the Delhi Police did not give permission for that.
Despite heavy security deployment, large groups of the agitating farmers from Punjab and Haryana reached two of Delhi’s borders on Friday morning, ramming through the police barricades on the way.
The Delhi Police had fortified the farmers’ route by deploying more security personnel, stationed sand-laden trucks and water cannons, and fenced the Singhu and Tikri borders with barbed wire to stop them from entering the city.
Several Metro stations on the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) route were also closed to prevent the farmers from boarding the trains and reaching the capital.
Meanwhile, in Uttar Pradesh, hundreds of farmers headed to the national capital in response to the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s “Dilli chalo” call to join the protests. The farmers belonging to Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Gautam Buddh Nagar and other western UP districts reached the Eastern Peripheral Expressway in Greater Noida on Friday afternoon, when they were stopped by the police. They left shortly afterwards following an announcement that the protesting Punjab farmers had been allowed to march into Delhi.
Earlier in the day, before it gave them permission to enter the city, the Centre had asked the Delhi government to convert nine stadiums into temporary jails for the farmers. The state government, however, declined that request.
Meanwhile, Delhi was a virtual fortress during the day with all its borders sealed. There was strict checking to prevent miscreants from sneaking into the city in the guise of farmers.
Protests were held in other parts of the country as well in support of the farmers.
Earlier, on Thursday, as they pushed towards Delhi, farmers from Punjab faced water cannons and broke police barriers at the state’s border with Haryana. The Haryana Police had placed cement and steel barricades and parked trucks on the road to stop the farmers’ tractor-trolleys, some of which were laden with food for the planned two-day protest (November 26 and 27) that many felt could extend further.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra criticised the central government and accused it of adopting a highhanded approach to the farmers’ agitation, which, they said, reflected the government’s autocratic mindset.