Delhi braces for stir after late push to resolve farmers' protest crisis | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Delhi braces for stir after late push to resolve farmers' protest crisis

Feb 13, 2024 07:25 AM IST

Security forces have fortified the borders of Delhi with metal barricades, shipping containers, and more as farmers plan to march into the city.

Security forces on Monday placed rows of metal barricades, put in shipping containers, lined the streets with concertina wires, and dug up trenches at Delhi’s fringes, as the Capital’s borders turned fortresses a day before farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh planned to march into the city, even as talks between protesters and Union ministers hit a dead-end after hours of parleys.

Barricades installed at Tikri border on Monday. (Sanchit Khanna /HT Photo)
Barricades installed at Tikri border on Monday. (Sanchit Khanna /HT Photo)

As the meeting ended past 11pm on Monday, farm leaders confirmed the protest would continue, and that farmers from the three states would resume their march to the Capital at 10am on Tuesday.

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The dense security blanket is likely to lead to traffic chaos and significantly immobilise millions of commuters looking to travel between Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad, especially once farmers converge at the Capital’s Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur border points on Tuesday afternoon, even as the Delhi Police enforced prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), severely restricting movement and public gatherings.

Farmers from 200 organisations and unions, meanwhile, set off from their homes atop trucks and tractors and charged towards Delhi, defying curbs imposed by governments and police forces, with some protesters ramming down barricades with their vehicles. Authorities responded by deploying dozens of companies of paramilitary and police forces to keep farmers from leaving their states.

Emerging from the meeting, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher, who was one of the two farm leaders who led the meeting, said, “The Centre doesn’t appear serious at meeting our demands. We will start the march towards the Capital at 10 am on Tuesday.”

“The government has time to call us again for talks till that time,” he, however, added.

Central government officials did not respond to requests seeking comment on the matter.

Agitators have sought minimum support prices (MSP) for their crops, waivers on farm loans, jobs for relatives of people killed during the 13-month-long farmers protest between November 2020 and December 2021, as well as compensation for the farmers injured in Lakhimpur Kheri and the withdrawal of cases registered against protesting cultivators.

The protests are being helmed by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha, which gave the “Delhi Chalo” call.

The farmers’ demands are not dissimilar from the 2020-21 agitation, when an even wider group of agricultural workers agitating against the Centre’s three farm laws camped at Delhi’s borders in Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri.

The demonstrators had back then called off their agitation weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his government would abandon the contentious laws. Parliament repealed them on November 29, 2021.

Read more: Likely plans to seal Delhi border points, city stares at gridlock due to farmers' protests

Security forces said they have sought to prevent a rerun of those agitations, taking pre-emptive measures to keep the protesters from entering the Capital at all.

“We have made elaborate security arrangements at the key borders, taking into consideration the past experience of the farmers’ agitation in 2020 during, which they seized the arterial roads on the three borders and then stormed the Red Fort on January 26, 2021,” said a senior Delhi Police officer who asked not to be named.

Still, the multiple levels of restrictions to stop farmers is likely to play havoc with traffic. According to a Delhi Traffic Police officer, the routes that are likely to be affected worst include the Sahibabad-Dilshad Garden stretch, Vaishali-Anand Vihar Road, Ghaziabad-Ghazipur road, Ghazipur-Anand Vihar Road, Vikas Marg, Delhi-Noida Direct (DND) flyway, the Ring Road, Barapullah flyway, GT Karnal Road and Rohtak Road

To compound commuters’ troubles, Delhi traffic police officers warned that the jams would spill onto several arterial stretches across the city, especially its outer, eastern, central, northern and southern parts.

In a revised traffic advisory issued on Monday evening, the Delhi Police warned commuters traffic diversions “may be required at Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri borders depending on the conditions”. The police’s earlier advisory was more definitive about the border closures, and said “traffic restrictions and diversions will be imposed at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders from February 12 for commercial vehicles and from February 13 for all types of vehicles”.

“The general public will be informed about diversions well in advance,” said the revised advisory.

Meanwhile, Delhi Police chief Sanjay Arora on Monday morning also extended the imposition of Section 144 across the national capital for a month. Earlier, prohibitory orders were in place only in east, north-east, outer-north and outer police districts.

Read more: Forces deployed, highways shut, flag marches done in Haryana ahead of ‘Dilli Chalo’ protest

More than 1,000 Delhi Police and paramilitary personnel equipped with tear gas launchers and shells, bulletproof vests, helmets, batons, and sophisticated weapons were deployed at the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders, even as drones zipped over the city’s fringes to keep a watch on suspicious activities around the borders, said two police officers aware of the matter.

“Iron barricades, jersey barriers, shipping containers, barbed wire fencing, iron nails, hydra cranes, buses and other vehicles will form multi-layered blockades at the key borders to stop the protesting farmers from entering Delhi,” said one of the officers cited above.

The second officer said that an alert has been sounded in all police stations across the city and police personnel have been asked to intensify police pickets, patrolling and checking of vehicles. Indeed, the police put in place a raft of check-posts in the central Delhi area on Monday, with officers checking vehicles at the Ranjit Singh flyover, Mandi House, ITO, Minto Bridge, Mathura Road, and Ring Road.

These preparations came as talks in Punjab between Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Arjun Munda, and state minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal and heads of the protesting farmer bodies reached an impasse.

The protesters’ delegation was led by Pandher and Bharatiya Kisan Union (Sidhupur) chief Jagjit Singh Dalewal, accompanied by office-bearers of several other organisations.

This is their second meeting in five days. The first meeting, on February 8, also ended in a stalemate.

Pandher said no consensus was reached during Tuesday’s talks. “The government tried to buy time,” he said.

Authorities in Haryana and Punjab have also fortified the states’ borders, using concrete blocks, iron nails and barbed wire to scuttle the proposed march.

The Haryana government has also imposed restrictions under Section 144 of the CrPC in as many as 15 districts, prohibiting the assembly of five or more people and banning any kind of demonstration or march with tractor-trolleys.

Yet, in Punjab, convoys of tractor-trolleys set out in the morning from Beas in Amritsar, Moga, Bathinda and Jalandhar districts and headed to Shambu, Khanuri and Dabwali, as the state’s borders thronged with adamant protesters.

Protesters in Punjab headed towards the Shambhu and Dabwali borders with Haryana.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Karn Pratap Singh has been writing on crime, policing, and issues of safety in Delhi for almost a decade. He covers high-intensity spot news, including terror strikes, serial blasts and security threats in the national capital.

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Gurpreet Singh Nibber is an Assistant Editor with the Punjab bureau. He covers politics, agriculture, power sector, environment, Sikh religious affairs and the Punjabi diaspora.

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Bhavey Nagpal is a staff correspondent based at Karnal. He reports on crime, politics, health, railways, highways, and civic affairs for northern Haryana districts.

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