Protesting farmers on way to Delhi were stopped by the police in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh. But the police, who had barricaded the road at Rampur, were forced to give way. Sources said the farmers were from the Pilibhit and Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, and were on way to join the Punjab and Haryana farmers sitting on protest outside Delhi.
Cellphone videos from the spot showed tractors roll by one after the other as hundreds of cheering farmers lined the street. Armed with batons, policemen watched as the tractors, drawing tarpaulin-covered wagons, made their way thruugh the crowd. Slogans of "Kisan Ekta zindabad" sounded from all sides.
Another video showed the crowd blocking a police car that was carrying a senior officer. As angry farmers demanded that he back off, the driver folded his hands and put the car in reverse. A policeman is seen leading away a colleague on foot.
Sources said the convoy is currently at Moradabad, where negotiations are on with senior police officers. The highway to Delhi has been intermittently blocked at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border at Ghazipur as the road has been lining up with tractors.
The Uttar Pradesh police's attempt to stop the farmers comes days after the Supreme Court upheld people's constitutional right to hold peaceful protests.
At a hearing on Thursday, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said, "We make it clear that we recognise the fundamental right to protest against a law. There is no question of balancing or curtailing it. But it should not damage anyone's life or property".
The court's remark came after a huge controversy over BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Haryana's efforts to stop the protesting farmers from proceeding towards Delhi.
Before November 26, the Haryana police had used tear gas, water cannons and batons to stop farmers, who had called the "Delhi Chalo" protest. Swaraj India chief Yogendra Yadav and actvist Medha Patkar were detained. The Uttar Pradesh police, too, had stopped protesters at various points on way to Delhi.
The Centre has been against a farmers' protest in Delhi, citing the coronavirus pandemic and a possible threat to life and property. On Thursday, it also spoke against the assembly of farmers outside Delhi borders.
"Blockade happens only in war," Attorney General KK Venugopal, who was representing the Centre, had told the court. Arguing that the blockade has to go, he said "it affects the right to movement and the damage is enormous".
"The worst of all is that there is no use of mask no social distancing. Covid will be spreading and they would go back to village and spreading the virus throughout the state," Mr Venugopal had said.
The court said it stands with the farmers and recommended that the matter be sorted out by a special committee.
"We are saying it to you. You have a right to protest. We are not going to interfere. You carry on protests. Your protest has a purpose, and that must be fulfilled by talking to someone. You simply cannot sit on protest for years," the top court had said.