Was just a trial, says Rakesh Tikait as farmers' blockade of KMP Expressway ends

Next agenda on March 11---expand the movement to other parts, including WB, MP, Karnataka, Odisha

Tribune News Service
Chandigarh/Delhi, March 6 

As farmers' blockade of the six-lane Kundli-Manesar-Palwal Expressway came to an end on Saturday evening, Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait warned of intensifying such measures unless the Centre heeded to their demands of repealing the controversial agriculture laws.  

"Like Delhi borders, KMP can also be blocked completely. Today was a trial for five hours," he said. 

Farmers blocked some parts of the highway as a mark of 100 days of their protest at Delhi's borders on Sunday.  The road blockade began at 11 am and continued till 4 pm.

Farmers have pitched tents at Delhi's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, since November in an attempt to pressure the central government into repealing three laws ---the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

 The protesters have held several rounds of talks with the central government with no headway. 

Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a joint front of 32 farmers' unions that have been spearheading the protests, had called a 5-hour blockade of the 136-km Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway,  also known as the western peripheral Expressway, on Saturday. 

Protesters said they would only allow emergency vehicles to pass during those five hours.

 

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The 53-km Manesar-Palwal section was inaugurated by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in 2016 and the 83-km Kundli-Manesar section was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018.

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Farmers holding black flags and wearing black armbands and some women protesters with black ‘dupattas’ shouted slogans against the BJP-led government for not acceding to their demands.

Protesters in Sonipat and Jhajjar districts and some other places brought their tractor-trolleys and other vehicles and parked them in the middle of the KMP Expressway in some stretches.

The Haryana Police had made arrangements for traffic diversions and deployed adequate personnel.

Protesting farmers squatted on the expressway and criticised the Narendra Modi government for not withdrawing the farm legislation, which they called “black laws”.

“Our agitation against the three farm laws will continue unless the Centre withdraws these laws. We will not step back,” said a protester in Sonipat.

Farmers held a protest at the KMP Expressway near Mandothi village in Jhajjar district. Some people from nearby villages joined them.

“We are holding our protest in a peaceful manner,” said a farmer, adding that they were also observing “black day” on Saturday.

Protesting farmers said the government should withdraw these laws.

Farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal, while addressing a gathering on the KMP Expressway, asked the Modi government to withdraw these laws.

This agitation will certainly put pressure on the central government, he said.

Farmers claimed that their five-hour protest remained peaceful.

Sonipat Superintendent of Police Jashandeep Singh Randhawa said arrangements were made for traffic diversions.

Heavy vehicles were diverted from Panipat and others from Ganaur to Delhi, said officials.

Traffic was also diverted from Murthal via Sonipat city to Narela and Bawana and from Bahadurgarh to Baghpat, they said.

Officials said traffic resumed at KMP expressway after famers lifted their blockade at 4 pm.

In Palwal district also, farmers staged a ‘dharna’.

At some places in Haryana, farmers even put up black flags atop roof of their houses as a mark of their protest against the government for not withdrawing the farm laws.

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The KMP Expressway was built to decongest the ever-busy roads of Delhi, especially by reducing the number of trucks entering the national capital, thus helping to curb pollution.

It provides a high-speed link between northern and southern Haryana districts and gives an uninterrupted high-speed link for traffic, especially commercial traffic, from Haryana to neighbouring states.

The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that the three laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporations.

However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.

What next?

As plains of North India brace for scorching summers and the harvesting season begins, farmers made it clear that they would not turn back until their demands are met.

“After completing 100 days of an unparalleled sit-in at the Delhi’ borders, unions will unveil the next agenda and programme for coming days on March 11,” Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU (Dakaunada), said. The aim is to expand the movement to other parts of the country, including poll-bound West Bengal and, also States like Madhya Pradesh Karnataka and Odisha, added BKU general secretary Yudhvir Singh.

Senior leaders say despite “many hurdles posed by the government and its agencies, the movement is going strong and is set to become bigger”. However, the underlying message for BJP’s political rivals is that this does not mean all support for them.  Patiala said the organisations will coordinate with BJP’s rival parties to make this clear to them.

“We are apolitical, we want to make it clear to the Opposition parties as well,” he said.

 Rajewal said the protest is a “symbolic” and will become “bigger”.

“We are ready for talks if government invites us (farmer leaders). But our demand remains the same. We want the withdrawal of the three farm laws. We will not accept the modification in the laws,” said Rajewal, president of BKU Rajewal,  who has been leading the talks of farmer unions with the central government.    

Unions are also planning meetings, panchayats and mahapanchayats in other states and other areas, but at a distance from the current dharna sites at the Delhi borders. Yudhvir Singh said the movement has got tremendous support from across the country and it is now timefor farmers in other states like Odisha and Karnataka to register it physically.

“For 100 days farmers have been camping at the Delhi borders in bitter cold, many have also died. But the government’s attitude has not just been disappointing but also shameful. We have no other option but to take the movement to other states and ensure our physical presence there. We will do whatever it takes to show our ‘nararzgi’ (anger),” he said. 

Singh said the movement has got a very good response from Rajasthan and they are considering a panchayat in Jaipur on the birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

“We will hold meetings/panchayats in Bengal on March 12, 13, and 14, Madhya Pradesh on March 14 and 15, Odisha on March 19, and Karnataka on March 20, 21, and 22. The movement is no longer limited to dharnas. If we want, we can collect a huge crowd on Delhi borders in one hour, but that is not the only aim now,” he said. 

— With agencies

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