New Delhi : Rail roko in Punjab, blockades in Haryana, agitations in Maharashtra and scattered protests in Uttar Pradesh — India saw farmers question the recently passed three agricultural Bills that they perceive as ‘anti-farmer’ which the Centre insists are in the farmer’s interest.In the bread basket states of Punjab and Haryana emotions ran high. Cutting across party lines, the day-long statewide protests by farmers evoked a huge response and normal life was disrupted. Chandigarh, though, was near-normal.Activists of several farmer associations were seen asking traders at many places in the Congress-ruled Punjab to keep their shops and business establishments shut.Reports of shutdown of shops and other establishments were received from Punjab’s Patiala, Ludhiana, Bathinda, Moga, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and other places. Northern Railways cancelled three trains and curtailed the routes of 20 special trains, officials said on Friday.Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal, still technically an ally of the ruling BJP at the Centre, has demanded that the whole of Punjab be declared a ‘principal market yard’ for agricultural produce to ensure that laws based on the three passed agricultural Bills do not apply in the northern state.As day progressed, thousands of farmers joined protests across Maharashtra too. The agitation has been supported by the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the All India Kisan Sabha, the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, major farmers’ organisations, various national and state level trade unions and student unions.
Spearheaded by AIKS President Ashok Dhawale from Palghar, in Mumbai, the protests were led by Sunil Kharpat in Thane, Subhash Dake in Beed, by Govind Ardad in Jalna, Sudam Thakre in Nandurbar and Arjun Ade in Nanded.In Kolhapur, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana President Raju Shetti urged farmers in the state and all over the country to protest the laws with full vigour, and led an agitation in which a bonfire was made of the copies of the law.”These laws are detrimental to the very survival of the farming community. The government has pushed through these laws undemocratically and it was a black day when it was passed in Parliament. We will not tolerate the injustice meted out to the farmers,” he said.Uttar Pradesh also saw farmers blocking the Ayodhya-Lucknow highway for a few hours on Friday. Protesters also burnt stubble in the middle of the road and shouted slogans against the Centre, demanding withdrawal of agri Bills.Farmers blocked the Delhi-Meerut highway near Ghaziabad to protest the legislations. Farmers from the Lakhimpur Kheri district have also gathered in protest. Protests have also been reported from many districts in Uttar Pradesh, including Pilibhit, Sambhal, Ghaziabad, Sitapur, Baghpat and Barabanki.RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav turned it into a political event in poll-bound Bihar. A procession of around 50 tractors followed the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, with his party supporters shouting slogans against the NDA government over the Bills.The protesters, without following social distancing norms, were headed towards the Governor’s House when a posse of police briefly stopped them for security reasons. They were, however, allowed to proceed towards Bailey Road.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) farmers wing ‘Sara Bharat Krishak Sabha’ and Trinamool-backed Kisan Khet Mazdoor cell activists took out rallies, held sit-in demonstrations and set the farm bills on fire in Kolkata. SFI activists also staged a road blockade in front of Kolkata’s prestigious Jadavpur University in the afternoon protesting against the farm bills.The North-East too wasn’t untouched by farmers’ protests. CPIM-led Left parties organised protest rallies in different northeastern states including Assam and Tripura.Addressing a rally in Agartala, CPI-M central committee member Badal Chowdhury said that if the farm bills were enforced, crores of farmers and farm labourers would lose their works and jobs.”Farmers suicide and mass death of farmers and farm labourers would increase due to these destructive and harmfull bills,” Chowdhury, a former Left Minister in Tripura, told the gathering.Down south, the protests may not have been as intense as in the Hindi heartland, but nevertheless the farmers took to streets.While farmer leader Kuruburu Shantakumar said that there are as many as 60 entry points across Bengaluru, lack of unanimity among farmers associations came to the fore when another prominent farmer leader Kodihalli Chandrashekhar asserted that their group did not support Friday’s protest.In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, the protests were not even half as emphatic as in Punjab or Haryana. Led by Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association President P. Ayyakannu, farmers held their protest outside the Collectorate in Trichy while carrying human skulls in their hands. They demanded that the Bills should not be made into law.Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister R. Doraikkannu said the Bills will not impact the farmers in Tamil Nadu.With the sentiments of farmers resonating across India, the CM of Punjab — the hub of farmers’ anger, Capt Amarinder Singh said, “Maybe the distressing visuals of tens of hundreds of farmers out on the roads at hundreds of locations in Punjab, and in several other states, will touch the hearts of the Central leadership. Perhaps the Bharatiya Janata Party will now realise its folly.”
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