Massive Farmer Protests In Punjab, Haryana, Parts Of UP Over 3 Bills

Bharat Bandh: The most widespread protests took place in Punjab and Haryana, but demonstrations were also reported from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala and Karnataka.

Bharat Bandh: Farmers are protesting across several states.

New Delhi: Over 265 farmers' groups took to the streets today to block roads and carry out rallies and marches in a nationwide agitation against the controversial farm bills. The protests will intensify, the farmers said, unless the bills are repealed. Opposition parties like the Congress, the RJD and the Trinamool, as well as 10 central trade unions, have voiced their support for the farmers. Faced with the protests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today hailed the farm bills as "historic" and hit out at the opposition for misleading the farmers. The government has said the bills will help farmers get better prices by allowing them to sell their produce at markets and prices of their choice. Farmers, however, fear the loss of the price support system (MSP) and the entry of private players who, they say, will put small and marginal farmers at risk.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

  1. Addressing a virtual meeting of BJP leaders today, the PM said small and marginal farmers would benefit most from the reforms. However, despite the Prime Minister's (repeated) assurances on MSP (and the centre revising these rates), large numbers of farmers are unconvinced. Massive protests broke out in Punjab and Haryana (states known as the grain bowls of India) as well as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and even Karnataka.

  2. "More than 265 farmers' groups affiliated with the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) took part in protests today. Additionally, around 100 non-affiliated groups also participated. I have received inputs from organising secretaries that protests were held at around 20,000 spots nationwide," Avik Saha, the AIKSCC General Secretary, told NDTV.

  3. In Punjab, a "complete shutdown" was called for by 31 farmers' groups protesting under the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) banner. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh earlier said the Congress-led state government supports the farmers and no FIRs will be registered for violation of prohibitory orders. Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who resigned as Union Minister last week, joined protests in her constituency of Bathinda. The Akalis - long-time BJP allies - are said to be considering their ties with the ruling NDA. Apart from political leaders, Punjabi singers and actors also sat in on the protests. Sidhu Moosewala, a singer, said: "We will not stop our fight here. It will continue".

  4. As angry farmers occupied highways and shut down all non-essential traffic - the Punjab-Haryana border was sealed near Ambala - a key border crossing. The Delhi-Amritsar highway was blocked at several places by farmers from the BKU and the Revolutionary Marxist Party of India. Several of the farmers' protests were noteworthy in that they refused to allow politicians to sit in with them. They criticised parties for only caring about votes - polls are due in Punjab next year and the Akalis count farmers as their key constituency. 

  5. The "rail roko" that began in Amritsar and Ferozepur districts yesterday continued today and has been extended till Tuesday (September 29). In addition, to the above two districts, tracks will be blocked in Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Jalalabad, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti said Friday evening. The group also hit out at BJP workers spreading "rumours" that the protesting farmers would engage in violence.

  6. Farmers also gathered in Uttar Pradesh's Noida (which borders national capital Delhi), prompting deployment of police in riot gear to keep them from crossing the border. Around 200 farmers were stopped in Noida's Sector 14A. After protesting for over three hours, they dispersed. In parts of UP, escalating protests led to the Ayodhya-Lucknow highway being blocked. Farmers also blocked the Delhi-Meerut highway in Modinagar near Ghaziabad. Farmers from the state's Kheri district have also gathered in protest.

  7. In poll-bound Bihar, opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav took part in a tractor rally to protest the farm bills. In visuals shared by news agency ANI, the RJD chief can be seen slowly driving a blue tractor down a main road in Patna as a large crowd of farmers, marshalled by armed policemen, march alongside.

  8. In Bengal farmers' groups affiliated to Left parties took out rallies in some districts and blocked roads for some time. There were protests in the rural belts of Hooghly, Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas, Bankura and Nadia districts, among others. Some carried agricultural produce and shouted slogans against the PM and Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. Farmers' groups linked to the ruling Trinamool Congress also protested; some farmers burned copies of the bill and effigies of Prime Minister Modi.

  9. Members of the Karnataka State Farmers' Association protested on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu highway. Around 250 were taken into preventive custody at Mysore Bank Circle in Bengaluru. A group of farmers met with Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa but failed to reach an understanding. A statewide protest called for on Monday will go ahead as planned. In Tamil Nadu, farmers from the National South Indian River Interlinking Farmers' Association protested in Trichy with human skulls, chained hands and nooses tied around their necks.

  10. Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi both, of whom have been active in the criticism of the bills, tweeted again today. Mrs Gandhi Vadra said: "They (the farmers) will be forced to become slaves of trillions through contract farming." Mr Gandhi said: "... The new agriculture laws will enslave our farmers".

With input from ANI, PTI