Farmers protesting against new agricultural laws clashed with policemen this afternoon at Delhi-Jaipur highway when they were stopped from heading to the national capital to join thousands others camping on the outskirts of the city. About 20 of them were detained and over 200 farmers held a sit-in against the detention; they were released about an hour later.
Dramatic visuals showed protesters on tractors blocking a part of the highway when cops tried to stop them. Policemen were seen climbing on tractors, snatching the vehicles' keys and negotiating with them as the security personnel made all possible efforts to clear the highway.
The clashes took place after a huge gathering of farmer leaders - Mahapanchayat - took place in Haryana's Bawal at 1 pm to chalk out a plan as protesters from the state were stopped from blocking Delhi-Jaipur highway on Sunday. After deliberating for an hour, they decided to continue their journey to the national capital.
As security personnel - policemen and paramilitary troops - got to know of their latest move, they barricaded Banipur Chowk, which was nearby, in a bid to block fresh demonstrations. Yet farmers on tractors - unfazed by barricades and huge police presence - did not stop, leading to an inevitable clash.
Medha Bhushan, Additional Superintendent of Police, Rewari, told NDTV: "Our effort at this point of time is that the road remains clear."
In Rewari, 10 km away, peaceful protests are still on.
Yesterday, activist Yogendra Yadav led one of the groups marching to Delhi via the highway. "It's a strange negotiation. They are forcing a gift, which is unwanted in the first place. The Prime Minister says it's a historic gift, but farmers don't want it," the Swaraj India chief told NDTV, referring to the farm laws as he hit out at the government.
Today, several farmer leaders across the country are on a hunger strike, signifying an escalation in the protests that began late November over demands of repeal of the new agricultural laws, which farmers say will leave them at mercy of corporates. The government, however, has said it will boost their income.