Ghaziabad/New Delhi: With parked DTC buses sealing the main entry points, multi-layer barricades and checkpoints, Ghazipur, the new focal point of the farmers” agitation, appeared Monday to be turning into a fortress.
Security arrangements continue to be strengthened at the Delhi-UP border site, which is galvanising farmers from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand days after an emotional appeal by Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait.
No major road is now open for movement of vehicles and people, which is proving to be a growing problem for many passing the stretch.
A portion of the road is studded with nails. Concertina wire is a new addition, also mentioned by Tikait while addressing a packed crowd from the main stage.
“They have put these barbed wires, not us. They are not allowing people to come to Delhi. We are not the one blocking the roads. If we block roads, they ask us to vacate, but no action is taken when the same is done by these security forces,” he said.
Drones have also been deployed to monitor the protesters.
Police are beefing up security at the other protest sites on Delhi’s borders as well, after the Republic Day clashes between police and protesters taking part in a tractor parade.
On Wednesday night, after the Republic Day violence, the atmosphere was tense at Ghazipur.
The Ghaziabad administration had issued an “ultimatum” to the protesters to vacate a stretch of the Delhi-Meerut expressway they have been occupying for two months, protesting against the new farm laws enacted at the Centre.
As security at the Ghazipur site increased, fears grew that the protesters would be forcibly evicted. But an emotional outburst by Rakesh Tikait led to more farmers converging there.
Commuters, facing problems since December on the stretch occupied by the protesters, say the situation has worsened after the new restrictions.
Like the security personnel, farmers too have set up checkpoints.
“We don’t allow the locals to enter without any rhyme or reason. Even if you are the media, you have to show your id-card for entry. The drill is applied round the clock,” said a volunteer, standing next to a makeshift checkpoint.
An elderly farmer said the protesters will not be deterred by the new measures.
“These barricades, nails and barbed wires are put to deter the farmers but we are not going to quit the movement because of the show of force. We appeal to the prime minister with folded hands to repeal the new laws so that we can go back to our villages and take care of our families, farms and cattle,” he said.
Indirapuram Circle Officer Anshu Jain told PTI Monday night that the law and order situation was normal at the Delhi-UP border. “Some barricades were set up on nearby routes leading to Anand Vihar but those were removed in the afternoon,” she said.
At another location — Singhu on the Delhi-Haryana border — workers under the watch of police personnel were seen Monday hooking iron rods between two rows of cement barriers on a flank of the main highway.
“The other flank was done yesterday. Cement is to be poured in the space between the barriers on this flank to make a makeshift wall,” a worker said.
Besides the makeshift wall on the highway, a small trench was dug up earlier across an inner street a little off the highway and cement barricades put up on both the sides.
The section of the highway at the Singhu border also saw a clash recently between farmers and a group of people who claimed to be local residents.
On Monday, the Delhi side of the Singhu border saw a sparse crowd of protesters while the Haryana side was dominated by people making vociferous speeches, denouncing the new farm laws.
Farmer leaders at Singhu asserted that the barricades won’t cage their spirit.
Balwinder Singh Sirsa, a farmer leader from Sirsa in Haryana, urged protesters not get demotivated by what happened on January 26, claiming it was “orchestrated” by some people to denigrate the protest.
A woman protester from Haryana, addressing a large gathering from the dais, said the alleged conspiracy on that day failed to weaken the movement and has rather injected “a new lease of life” in it.
Randhir Singh, 85, a farmer from Haryana, said, “We are not terrorists or Khalistanis. We are fighting for our rights. Attempts are still being made to defame and weaken us.”
Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have been camping at Delhi’s borders for weeks, seeking a repeal of the three central laws.
They claim that the new laws will weaken the minimum support price (MSP) system. But the Centre says the laws will only give farmers more options to sell their produce. PTI