- "50,000 farmers expected at Delhi border by evening": Farmers' bodies
- Farmers say they won't return until the three farm laws are repealed
- Haryana police has been criticised for its use of force against farmers
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"It is expected that more than 50,000 farmers will be standing at the Delhi border by today evening. The numbers are expected to swell through the night as thousands of tractors and trolleys are carrying farmers, women and children from interior areas of Punjab," read a statement from Samyukt Kisan Morcha and All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee. The farmers say they won't return until the Centre's three farm laws -- which leave them vulnerable to big corporates and threaten their livelihood -- are repealed.
In Haryana's Sonipat, in the middle of a cold wave, water cannons started up at full spate close to midnight as the police tried to disperse a small group of Punjab farmers who clamoured to continue their journey towards Delhi. The group had been talking to the police through the evening from across a trench and a barricade, requesting passage.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar -- whose state was hugely criticised for its use of force against farmers -- hit out at his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh, accusing him of playing "cheap politics" during the pandemic. Mr Singh, he said, was "only tweeting and running away from talks" over the issue.
Amarinder Singh hit back, questioning if he was inciting the farmers, why farmers from Haryana were joining the protest. Earlier, he had slammed the Haryana government, tweeting, "Why is @mlkhattar govt in Haryana stopping the farmers from moving to Delhi? The tyrannical use of brute force against peacefully protesting farmers is totally undemocratic & unconstitutional".
The Punjab farmers, who had been camping out at the sealed Haryana border since yesterday, started their march this morning. Most have managed to reach Haryana's Karnal. The protesters had an intense, two-hour clash with the police on a bridge nearly 200 km from Delhi. As the barricades were thrown into the river, the police responded with tear gas and water cannons, which further enraged the protesters. .
Thousands of farmers from Haryana have been making their way towards Delhi since yesterday, despite the police crackdown. Most of them spent the night at Karnal and had started the march towards Panipat, but have been stopped midway by the police.
Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav who was leading a team of farmers, was detained by the Haryana Police at Gurugram. "It is a very strange pandemic," Mr Yadav told NDTV. "Three days ago, Dushyant Chautala rallied thousands of farmers. No mask. No social distancing. Then there is no pandemic. Bihar election - no pandemic. When farmers gather, then there is pandemic," he said.
In Uttar Pradesh, a huge gathering of more than 2000 farmers was stopped at Bilaspur turn, Rampur. The UP police prevented them from moving to Delhi and they are waiting on the Nainital-Delhi highway to be allowed to move ahead, a farmers' body said. Social activist Medha Patkar was stopped from entering Uttar Pradesh at its border with Rajasthan.
Farmers from six states -- Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Kerala and Punjab -- are backing the march to Delhi. The protest, planned for over two months, has the support of 500 farmers' organisations. The farmers have not responded to agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar's appeal for talks on December 3. "The government is committed to the welfare of farmers and we are ready for talks. Whether it's about minimum support price or infrastructure, we are ready for discussion," he had said.
For nearly three months, the farmers have been up in arms against the farm laws, aimed at bringing reforms by doing away with middlemen and improving farmers' earnings by allowing them to sell produce anywhere in the country. The farmers and opposition parties contend that the laws could lead to government stopping the system of buying grain at guaranteed prices, which would leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.