In scenes reminiscent of war zones, the Haryana government has dug trenches in the middle of the roads leading to Delhi as part of their efforts to stop the waves of farmers travelling to Delhi to protest against the Centre’s farm laws.
Images and videos emerged over the intervening night of 26-27 November of trenches dug on national highways ahead of barricades and police deployments.
“The idea is to delay the movement of farmers from Punjab so that they don't reach Karnal," a police officer told NDTV on Thursday night. Similar blockades were put up near Kurukshetra, the channel reports. The legality of the move to destroy public property by the police has been questioned by lawyers like Karuna Nundy and retired police officers like DR NC Asthana.
This is the latest in a series of escalating measures to prevent the protesting farmers from making their way into the national capital, including the use of tear gas, water cannons, barricades with barbed wire, sand-laden trucks, shipping containers and even concrete blocks to create blockades.
Farmers Break Through Barricades
However, even as the farmers were able to break through the barricades on Thursday, on Friday morning, scenes of farmers began to emerge, making it past several of these blockades, including at Sonipat, where the use of water cannons late at night had forced the protesters to stop, which was widely condemned.
The mud created due to the police’s use of water cannons, ironically, appears to have made it easier to move the containers and cement blocks. The farmers even used the tractors brought by them as a symbol of their resistance and to carry supplies to move the concrete barricades at some blockades.
Elsewhere, they took apart mounds of earth dug up and left to block the roads with their bare hands (and with tools as well), and jumped over barricades to keep going forward.
The Haryana authorities have once again sought to block the border between Punjab and Haryana, including at Shambhu, where farmers had on Thursday braved water cannons and thrown barricades over a bridge into the river to push through.
The Haryana-Delhi border remains tense, with heavy police deployment to stop the farmers from continuing forward. Tear gas shells have been fired, and there are massive barricades along with water cannons at areas such as Tikri and Singhu.
The Ongoing Protests & Government’s Reactions
Amid tight security, over two lakh farmers and members of trade unions from Punjab, Kerala, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana have called for “Delhi Chalo", a two-day march to protest against three contentious farm laws passed by the Centre in September.
A strike had also been called by several trade unions and farmers’ associations across the country, with concerns also being raised over the government’s new labour codes.
The farmers and trade union members are seeking to reach the Ram Lila Maidan in Delhi to make their voices heard.
The Haryana and Delhi governments have cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to prevent the gathering. Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar on Wednesday ordered the police to prevent the protesters from reaching the capital.
As part of their efforts, the Haryana Police detained Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav near Gurugram and have taken used water cannons and tear gas extensively to stop those trying to cross the border.
The Delhi Police requested permission from the Delhi government on Friday, 27 November, to convert nine stadiums across the city into temporary jails where they could detain protesters who reached the capital, but on Friday afternoon, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal was reported to have rejected the request. Kejriwal had said on Thursday morning that peaceful protest was a constitutional right for the farmers.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday offered to speak “at the secretary level in Punjab to dispel wrong notions of our farmer brothers there” on 3 December. He also appealed to the farmers to not agitate as “we’re ready to talk about issues and resolve differences” through dialogue.
Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey told Press Trust of India that they had called the representatives of over 30 farmer organisations on 3 December, at 11 am at Vigyan Bhawan for conversations.