New Delhi/Gurugram: Barricades, barbed wire, heavy security deployment — this was the scene at Delhi’s northern and southern borders Thursday as farmers from Punjab and Haryana commenced their march to the national capital to protest against the Centre’s three new laws on agriculture.
The Delhi Police, Haryana Police and even the Border Security Force (BSF) and Rapid Action Force (RAF) were deployed as the farmers aimed to enter the capital from five different highways, despite being denied permission by the Delhi Police.
The Haryana Police had issued a travel advisory to commuters for 26 and 27 November, and Thursday, ThePrint found that barricades had been set up and police personnel deployed in areas as far away as Ambala and Kurukshetra. The state has even used water cannons to try and halt the protesting farmers amid the dropping temperatures, but they have remained undeterred.
In the face of the massive barricading, farmers who were camping in Kurukshetra Wednesday night began walking to Karnal, reaching around 2 pm Thursday.
“There’s massive security deployment. So, we have broken the barricades, left our trucks and have decided to walk to Delhi,” said Harpal Singh, a member of the state organisation committee of the Bharatiya Kisan Union in Haryana.
North of Delhi
At the Singhu border in north Delhi, there was heavy deployment of security personnel and water cannons.
“Given the Covid pandemic, our job is to ensure that the farmers’ rally doesn’t enter Delhi. We have deployed hundreds of personnel here, but normal passengers are being allowed to move after checking. Traffic movement is slow, but is being allowed after checking,” said Ghanshyam Bansal, Additional DCP for the Outer North District, who was keeping vigil at Singhu border.
Up ahead at Sonepat, the Haryana Police had already blocked a section of the road and was ready with barricades to stop the incoming farmers.
“We have kept barricades and forces ready to stop the protesters. We are checking vehicles also to ensure protesters don’t enter Delhi. But normal passenger movement is not being stopped,” ASI Ram Kumar, who was overseeing operations at the Delhi-Sonepat highway, said.
ThePrint found that one could proceed up to the northern side of the town of Panipat, but no further, as the police were turning back vehicles.
However, after 2 pm, traffic movement was stopped in both directions at Singhu border, forcing many commuters to abandon their vehicles and cross on foot.
“We didn’t know that the border was shut. We have already walked 1.5 km and now we have to walk another few km to get a vehicle to go to Anand Vihar,” said Chote Lal, who was headed to Delhi from Murthal, and like many others, was forced to drag luggage across the border.
Meanwhile, over 200 protesters, including Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav were taken into preventive detention. Another group headed towards Delhi, led by social activist Medha Patkar, was stopped on the Delhi-Agra highway in Uttar Pradesh.
“Over 200 of us have been detained from Jantar Mantar, Majnu ka Tila and Parliament Street. We don’t know where they are being taken,” T. Krishna Prasad of the All India Kisan Sangharsh coordination committee told ThePrint from the Mandir Marg police station.
Yogendra Yadav, meanwhile, called for Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, who has often said he is the farmers’ representative, to resign.
“The least he can do is step down and apologise to the farmers,” Yadav said.
South of Delhi
In contrast, Delhi’s southern border with Haryana, on the Gurugram side, has been quiet. Police personnel have been deployed from both sides, and the Haryana Police, which has been working in three-hour shifts since Wednesday evening, is checking any bus that has a large number of passengers, while letting private vehicles with one or two occupants proceed.
The Delhi Police has brought in back-up in the form of Central Armed Police Forces, and one water cannon has also been deployed on the Delhi side, which hadn’t been used till the time of publication of this report.
“There are about 150 people deployed from our side, 70 of whom are Delhi Police and rest are paramilitary forces. They began duty at midnight but this is a precautionary measure. We have inputs that farmers are meeting at Pachgaon chowk in Manesar, but that will be handled by the Haryana Police,” Ingit Pratap Singh, DCP South West district, told ThePrint.
“We have faced no resistance so far; no one has been sent back, and we haven’t found any farmer trying to enter the city.”
However, the barricading and checking has caused a nuisance for daily commuters on a busy road for office-goers. With cars, buses and trucks lined up bumper to bumper, it is taking commuters up to two hours to cross a stretch that otherwise takes 15 minutes.
Commuters were seen getting visibly upset and indulging in tiffs with the police, but to no avail.