Delhi braces for impact as farmer stir resumes today | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Delhi braces for impact as farmer stir resumes today

By, Shambhu/new Delhi/gurugram
Feb 21, 2024 08:57 AM IST

Capital braces for traffic chaos as protesting farmers gear up to resume march to Delhi, deploying heavy machinery and shields against police measures.

The Capital is bracing for another round of traffic chaos amid a standoff between security personnel and protesting farmers, who have announced that they will resume their march to Delhi on Wednesday, even as tensions ran high at the Shambhu border between Punjab and Haryana.

Farmers during the protest at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border, in Patiala district, on Tuesday. (PTI)
Farmers during the protest at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border, in Patiala district, on Tuesday. (PTI)

After failing to cross the Shambhu border due to heavy police deployment last week, the protesters brought heavy machinery on Tuesday — including excavators and JCB machines. The driver cabins of the excavators and JCB machine have been modified to withstand the impact of rubber bullets and shotgun pellets. Many farmers have also prepared rudimentary anti-riot shields, and organised gas masks to blunt the impact of tear gas shells. The protesters have also readied thousands of sand bags that could be used to build makeshift motorable pathways through non-barricaded areas.

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The police, on the other hand, have ramped up arrangements by deploying shipping containers loaded with heavy material to prevent them from being moved.

Thousands of farmers have been staging a sit-in protest at Shambhu since February 13 seeking several demands from the government, including minimum support prices (MSP) for 23 crops. The farmers halted their march last week while discussions were on between union leaders and the central government. But the fourth round of the talks on Sunday night could not break the deadlock.

“We are preparing merely to protect ourselves from the bullets and tear gas shells. We won’t do any violence, however, we don’t want to get hurt or killed. We are fully prepared to march towards Delhi,” farmer leader Ramandeep Singh Mann said on Tuesday.

“On February 21, we will peacefully start our march towards Delhi. We appeal to the Centre to resolve our issues by holding talks or allow us to march to Delhi by removing the barricades,” farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher, coordinator of the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha, told reporters.

Also Read: Farmers' protest: Police brace for 1200 tractors, bulldozers, traffic chaos as Delhi Chalo resumes today

Farmer leaders at Shambhu said they would take only two routes to reach Delhi: the first via Shambhu, Ambala, Karnal, Panipat and Sonepat; and the second via Khanouri (on the Punjab-Haryana border), Jind and Rohtak.

“We will go by the planned routes because it will be difficult to control the crowd if we change course,” said a senior leader.

In the Capital, Delhi Police on Tuesday bolstered security at the three main city borders — Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur — apart from smaller ones adjoining Haryana and Uttar Pradesh from where farmers could attempt to enter the Capital.

“For the last few days when the talks were underway, deployment of personnel at borders had been reduced while the fixtures like barricades, dumpers and containers remained installed. On Wednesday, the force will be deployed again and all units will be on alert,” a senior Delhi Police officer said.

The Gurugram Police on Tuesday afternoon detained at least 70 farmers and stopped a procession by a group of 400 farmers in Manesar, who had gathered to carry out a protest march culminating at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence. Police said over 500 policemen were deployed on the expressway and Manesar.

Surender Singh, assistant commissioner of police (Manesar) said the farmers gathered at the protest site and, despite orders, did not move after which they took action. “Section 144 has already been imposed but they tried to march towards the highway, so we detained them. No traffic congestion was reported since all the routes were manned and we did not allow parking on any main road,” he said.

Over 2,000 security personnel are expected to man the Singhu border where the first layer of barricades includes concrete with protruding iron nails followed by iron barricades, ones with barbed wires over them, dumpers filled with sand, cranes and earthmovers. Shiping containers have also been installed.

At Ghazipur border, over 1,000 personnel are expected to be deployed with two layers of jersey barriers set up, the gaps between them filled with cement. Heavy vehicles are on standby to create a third layer of barricades, if needed, officers aware of the matter said. “The main carriageway is open and if any changes have to be made, the decision will be taken real time,” an officer aware of the matter said.

Nearly 5,000 police personnel are expected to man the Tikri. While traffic has been smooth at the Ghazipur border, with only one lane blocked by police, vehicular traffic has been completely shut at Singhu and Tikri since February 13. However, commuters are allowed to shuttle between Delhi and Haryana from diverted routes. Vehicles are diverted to arterial roads at the two borders, a traffic police officer said.

Meanwhile, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait expressed his resentment over the government’s attitude towards protesting farmers at various borders of Punjab and Haryana. He reiterated the farmers of UP are ready to support the ongoing protest because it’s a battle to protect “nasal” and “fasal” (generation and crop).

Also Read: Farmer leader's 'whatever happens now' warning to Centre ahead of Feb 21 protest

A mahapanchayat convened at BKU’s headquarters in Sisauli town of Muzaffarnagar on February 17 discussed ways and means to extend support to farmers protesting under the banner of SKM (non-political), which has not invited many prominent leaders, including Tikait.

The panchayat decided to take out a “tractor march” at district headquarters across the state, especially those close to Delhi.

Even as the preparations continued, Jagjeet Singh Dallewal, president, BKU Ekta (Sidhupur), talking to HT, said they are still open to talks.

“Yes, we are open for talks. We believe that issues are resolved only on the talks table. As the government doesn’t accept our main demand of MSP on all crops, we will have no option but to march to Delhi,” he said.

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