The largest gatherings were in Punjab and Haryana, with hundreds of agitating farmers in both States squatting on roads
Stepping up their protests against the three recently-passed agriculture laws and the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill, farmers in 18 States blocked roads and staged demonstrations at more than 2,500 locations on Thursday, according to leaders from the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), who had called for the “chakka jaam” agitation. They estimated that 5 lakh farmers had participated countrywide, adding that the agitation was only a precursor to plans to mobilise in the capital later this month.
The largest gatherings were in Punjab and Haryana, with hundreds of agitating farmers in both States squatting on roads, including National and State Highways from noon till 4 p.m., hampering vehicular traffic. The protests were, however, peaceful and no untoward incident was reported. Members of farmer outfits were seen shouting slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government.
“We staged ‘dharnas’ and blocked roads at least at 200 places to register our protest against the farm laws and the proposed amendment in the Electricity Act,” said Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, Bhartaiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) in Punjab.
Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka also saw farmers and agricultural workers gathering in large numbers. In Puducherry, some protestors were detained by police, according to images and reports posted on social media. There were protests in almost all districts of Tamil Nadu.
“The protests clearly show a ‘One Nation, One Farmer-Protest’ phenomenon,” said an AIKSCC statement, mocking the Centre’s penchant for promoting its own schemes with a “one nation” theme. “This widespread protest has busted the myth that the Central Govt. has been spawning about the protests being localised. Farmers from Tamil Nadu to Punjab, Gujarat to Assam, gathered to make it clear that the highhandedness of the Central Govt. making laws for destroying the future of farmers, will not be tolerated at the ground level.”
“We do believe pressure is mounting. But this is only the trailer to our Dilli Chalo protest on November 26 and 27. We expect 1 lakh farmers from Punjab and 50,000 from Haryana to head towards the capital with more than 30,000 tractors,” said AIKSCC leader Avik Saha. “All 10 entrance roads to Delhi will most likely be blocked. If we are stopped by the police, we will sit down where we are. This time, Punjab farmers will be coming with a plan not to go back until their demands are met,” he added.
However, leaders of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh (RKMS), who said they supported Thursday’s chakka jaam protest, were more doubtful about participating in large numbers in the march to Delhi. “For most farmers, it will be sowing season until December 10, so how can they leave their fields for so long? It may not be practical to have an indefinite protest at this time,” said RKMS spokesperson Abhimanyu Kohar.