A Day After Police Crackdown, Ghazipur Border Swells with Farmers

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Huge crowd of people at Ghazipur border protest site (Photo-Clarion India)

‘I could not resist coming here after I saw tears in Takait’s eyes,’ says a first-timer at the protest side on Delhi-UP border

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

GHAZIPUR BORDER, New Delhi – A day after police attempted to remove farmers from Ghazipur border, thousands of farmers from parts of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab descended on the protest site in a show of solidarity and expression of resolve to continue the agitation in the face of any eventuality until the new laws are repealed. In fact, new tractors have arrived and more tents have been set up to accommodate an increasing number of farmers.

Crowds gathered around the stage throughout the day to listen to the speakers who denounced the police action and urged the people to remain united and steadfast till the protest movement reaches its logical end.

The main highway—NH24—at Ghazipur was blocked by metallic barricades manned by police personnel in riot gear forcing people to take dirt roads through the dense bushes to reach the protest site. Even the journalists with press cards were not allowed to pass the barricades. “We have orders from above to not allow any beyond this point,” Naresh Singh, assistant Sub Inspector of Delhi Police, told a group of reporter who were pleading to be allowed to go ahead.

The farmers have been protesting peacefully at different spots along the borders of Delhi, blocking major highways, since late November against the Modi government’s pro-corporate agrarian reforms. The agitated farmers say the laws will strip them of the financial protection they enjoy under the existing system.

But on India’s Republic Day, 26th January, the situation escalated as thousands of farmers marched on tractors into the capital. A group of protesters clashed with police, stormed the historical Red fort, leaving scores of cops and farmers injured. The violence has given the government a reason to order a crackdown on the agitation by filing cases against many farmers including their top leadership.

On Thursday evening, the farmers had started vacating the protest site after the authorities sent in hundreds of police personnel in an attempt to remove the farmers from the protest site at Ghazipur border. The police also tried to arrest Rakesh Tikait, one of the main farm leaders spearheading the current protests against the government.

The stand-off continued till late night with administration blocking water and electricity supply to the protest site and it appeared that the government strategy was working.

However, an emotional speech by Tikait, televised across the country, turned the tables. Amid moist eyes and sobs, Tikait said there was a “big conspiracy” to crush the agitation. Soon the public support swayed in his favour forcing the police to back off.

A day later, the mood at the camp reflected the resilience of the farmers to continue the protest unless their demands are fulfilled.

“Last night, the police terrorized us but when people showed the support they backed off,” said Amit Kasana, Ghaziabad district president, Bhartiya Kissan Union. “We have become stronger than ever.”

The farmers blamed some section of the media for Thursday’s face off saying that they spread fake news over the Red Fort flag controversy maligning farmers.

“Branding farmers as traitors is an assault on our dignity,” said 50-year-old Sukhwinder Singh, a farmer hailing from Jind district in Haryana. “I could not resist coming here after I saw, on TV channels, tears in Takait’s eyes.”  Singh said this was his first time at Ghazipur border but will continue his visits until “black laws are not reversed.”

He alleged that the people who stormed the Red Fort on January 26 were supporters of Modi “but Godi media is blaming the poor farmers who are true patriots,”

Sachin Sharma, who identified himself as secretary of Bhartiya Kissan Union’s Uttar Pradesh unit, said that in previous elections the farmers of western Uttar Pradesh who mainly come from Jat community had voted for Bhartiya Janata Party. “We farmers voted for Modi as he had promised that he would make our life better, but he betrayed us” said Sharma sitting in a newly pitched tent.

“We will not vote for Modi. Never,” said Sharma. “Back home, people have started boycotting those who still support BJP.”

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