Protesting farmers in BJP-ruled Haryana had a tough time marching towards Delhi today as the state police set up barricades and deployed water cannons across the state. After crossing the barricades at Ambala, hundreds of farmers faced water cannons at Kurukshetra. Dramatic visuals from the spot showed massive jets of water being fired at a huge crowd on the highway barricaded by the police.
People, thoroughly drenched in the cold winter evening, ran helter-skelter. Still, the farmers managed to breach the barricade. They are now marching through Kurukshetra on way to Karnal.
A section of farmers are already marching towards Sonipat, where they will stay overnight and leave for Delhi tomorrow morning.
Massive security arrangements have been made at the Delhi-Haryana border at Gurugram. The build-up is the heaviest on the Haryana side. The Delhi police have also gathered at the spot, determined not to let the protesters in.
Earlier, the Delhi Police had rejected all requests from farmers' organisations from six states – Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarkhand, Rajasthan, Kerala & Punjab -- to hold a protest in the national capital against the farm laws and said they would take legal action against violators. The police had cited the law banning gatherings in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
But the farmers, undaunted, have been planning to reach Delhi on November 26 through five highways as part of their "Delhi Chalo" march call.
BJP-ruled Haryana, too, had refused to allow the protesting farmers to pass. Over the last two days, the Haryana police have been issuing traffic advisories, warning commuters about a series of blockades at Ambala, Bhiwani, Karnal, Bahadurgarh, Jhajjar and Sonipat. Blockades were also put up at the four major National Highways leading towards Delhi - from Ambala, Hisar, Rewari and Palwal - and at entry points from Haryana to Delhi.
The march to Delhi was called as Punjab farmers called off their weeks-long rail blockade for 15 days to allow the entry of essential items.
The Centre has called farmers – who want a repeal of the farm laws -- for a second round of negotiations on December 3. But with the first round of meeting falling through last month as both the agriculture minister and his deputy gave it a miss, the farmers have decided to make their point with the big protest march.
In a series of tweets today, Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal registered his protest. "By stopping Punjabi farmers from peacefully exercising democratic rights , Center is repeating 1980 when the Akalis were stopped from entering Delhi to protest. Painful history must not be forced to repeat itself," his post read.
In another post, he condemned the actions of Haryana government in "cutting Punjab off from the rest of the country".
"PMO must intervene to ensure that this is stopped immediately and the Annadatas are not harassed and humiliated or stopped from reaching Delhi. Nation owes eternal debt to Kisans and Jawans," a second post read.
For nearly three months, farmers have been up against laws which the Centre has called "historic reforms" in the farm sector. The laws, the government said, would help farmers increase their income and free them from the interference of middlemen.
Under the new laws, the farmers are allowed to sell produce anywhere in the country and deal directly with big corporations – a situation the farmers have found alarming. Most feel they would be left at the mercy of the big corporates and with the phasing out of agricultural wholesale APMC markers, will not get even the minimum support price for their produce.