Farmers protesting against the Centre's new farm laws have gathered near rail tracks in parts of Punjab, Haryana Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka for the ''rail roko'' protest. The agitation, which started at noon, will continue till 4 pm and will be peaceful, the farmers have said. Train services have been stopped in several areas as part of precautionary measure. Security has been tightened in Punjab and Haryana, with the deployment of the government railway police and the state police.
Ghaziabad near Delhi -- where protesting farmers have been blocking the highway since November -- has also been put under a security blanket.
In Haryana, the train stations at Sonipat, Ambala and Jind were completely blocked. Protesters, many of them women, squatted on the railway Ambala, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Panchkula and Fatehabad (Bhattu Kalan) districts.
In Punjab, protesters sat on tracks at many places on the Delhi-Ludhiana-Amritsar railway route, officials said. Farmers blocked the Jalandhar Cantt-Jammu railway track in Jalandhar and in Mohali district.
There was commotion in Bengaluru as the police refused to allow farmers to protest. "We are not being allowed by the police to hold rail roko. The police say no permission has been given for this protest. Why should we wait for the police to give permission when it was nationally announced by farm unions," a farmer leader said.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha -- an aggregate of farmer unions -- had announced the nationwide rail blockade last week to press for its demand to repeal the farm laws.
"Our protest will continue in a peaceful manner till the farm laws are repealed," Bhartiya Kisan Union leader from Ambala Gulab Singh Manakpur was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
Over the last weeks, the farmers protesting at the Delhi borders have been heading out to states, saying it was part of their new strategy to take the protest across the country.
The plan to spread the protest came as the deadlock over the farm laws persisted despite multiple rounds of talks with the government. Neither ready is to back down.
The farmers have refused to accept the government's offer of a 18-month freeze on the three laws while negotiations continue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the proposal stands.
The farmers contend that the farm laws will shrink their income by doing away with the minimum prices fixed by the government and leave them at the mercy of corporates. The government says the laws are major reforms in the farm sector that will help farmers dispense with middlemen and allow them to sell produce anywhere in the country.