Bharat Bandh: Farmer groups may block highways and occupy toll plazas.
- The "Bharat bandh" will run from 11 AM to 3 PM
- Transport services, offices, shops will likely be affected
- The bandh's impact on BJP-ruled states is expected to be less severe
The Delhi-Meerut highway was blocked today for over four hours amid "Bharat bandh" - a nationwide shutdown call against new farm laws. Transport services and shops - particularly those selling fruits and vegetables - were affected in some states. Police in Delhi and Haryana, where large numbers of farmers have set up camp amid police barricades, issued traffic advisories. Protesters emphasised it's a "peaceful protest". Opposition parties, including the Congress, AAP, DMK, TRS, backed the protest call. Bhim Army chief Chadrashekhar Azad was detained this afternoon when he was on his way to join protests that come a day before sixth round of talks with the centre.
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Protesters blocked National Highway-24 that connects Delhi and Uttar Pradesh's Meerut, and roads near Haryana's Bahadurgarh. Dramatic visuals showed them sitting on roads despite huge police presence. Tear gas shells and water cannons were arranged as a precaution near Haryana border. The NH-24 has been partially opened.
Mumbai's biggest agricultural market in Vashi was shut. "The market provides supply to the city, nearby areas. While lakhs can come out on roads, we want a peaceful protest. Government should pay heed," NCP MLA Shashikant Shinde told NDTV this morning.
In Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow's biggest fruit and vegetable market is also shut. Nearly 15,000 farmers come to the market daily. However, markets across the city are open; traffic hasn't been disrupted. On the outskirts, farmers say they support the protest. "Cente can't say we've been misguided by opposition. There are many concerns over big private players in farm sector," Ram Verma, a farmer, told NDTV.
Delhi and Haryana Police issued separate traffic advisories. Traffic on National Highways 9, 19, 44 and 48 was affected. Supply was also hit in the national capital while agricultural markets stayed open.
In Congress-ruled Punjab, whose farmers have led the protests, almost all trade unions and MLAs of the ruling party and the opposition extended support.
In a tweet, ex-Congress chief Rahul Gandhi attacked the centre: "Modi ji, stop stealing from the farmers. All citizens know about the Bharat Bandh today. We should support this and make it a success." Amid massive protests, Congress workers were seen lying on roads on Chandigarh-Ambala highway; they blocked Delhi-Chandigarh highway too.
Telangana has also backed the bandh. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao called on TRS workers to "actively participate". His son KT Rama Rao showed support by staging protests. "Bharat Bandh is only the beginning. Centre has put farm sector in domain of corporates. We vehemently oppose these acts," KT Rama Rao told NDTV.
Bank unions said they stand in solidarity with farmers. They didn't participate in the bandh; however, pledged to wear black badges while on duty. Almost all commercial transport and truck unions, though, took part.
Tamil Nadu (ruled by the AIADMK, a BJP ally) didn't supporting the bandh. The traders' federation remained non-committal despite an appeal by the opposition. Across northeast, only some parts felt the impact. Transport services in Assam's Guwahati were affected this morning.
The ruling BJP launched a counter-attack against the opposition (and the bandh) Monday, accusing them of engineering the protests for political gains. Today, Karnataka Chief Minster BS Yediyurappa said: "The Prime Minister has said very clearly that ours is a government for the farmers. This Bharat Bandh has not been a success. Police will take action against anyone trying to disrupt normal life."