Punjab farmers set off for Delhi, face teargas at Punjab-Haryana border

Chandigarh: The Haryana Police hurled tear gas shells at farmers who tried to break barricades set up at the state’s border with Punjab at Shambhu near Ambala as farmers demanding a law on minimum support price marched toward Delhi.

A few farmers were detained as well near the Shambhu border, official sources said.

The Haryana Police hurled tear gas shells when a group of youth, who were part of the farmers’ ‘Chalo Delhi’ protest march, tried to break barricades set up at the Shambhu border in Ambala, officials said.

When a few youth broke an iron barricade and tried to throw it off the Ghaggar river bridge, the police lobbed several rounds of tear gas shells.

They also used a drone later on to drop a teargas shell.

The farmers decided to begin their march after a meeting with two Union ministers over their demands, including legal guarantee to MSP for crops, on Monday evening remained inconclusive.

Many farmers along with their tractor trolleys began the march around 10 am from Fatehgarh Sahib and are moving towards Delhi via Shambhu border. The distance between Fatehgarh Sahib and Shambhu border is around 35-40 km.

Convoys of tractor trolleys by farmers could be seen heading towards the Shambhu border on the national highway. Elderly, youth and women could be seen sitting in the tractor trolleys.

Security personnel deployed in the Haryana side also asked a group of youths approaching the border from the Punjab side to stay away from the barricades near the Shambhu border.

Authorities in Haryana have fortified the state’s borders with Punjab at many places in Ambala, Jind, Fatehabad, Kurukshetra and Sirsa using concrete blocks, iron nails and barbed wire to scuttle the proposed march.

Riot control vehicles, including water cannons, have also been deployed at many places at Punjab and Haryana borders. Security personnel were keeping an eye through drones as well.

The Haryana government has also imposed restrictions under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in as many as 15 districts, prohibiting the assembly of five or more people and banning any kind of demonstration or march with tractor trolleys.

Sarwan Singh Pandher — general secretary of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, on Tuesday decried the heavy barricading along the borders of Punjab and Haryana in view of the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march, saying the state borders have been turned into “international borders”.

He also accused the Manohar Lal Khattar government of harassing farmers in Haryana.

“It does not seem Punjab and Haryana are two states. It seems they have become the international border,” Pandher told reporters in Fatehgarh Sahib district ahead of the farmers’ march to Delhi.

In Haryana, 64 companies of paramilitary personnel and 50 from the Haryana Police have been deployed across various districts.

In Delhi, security has been intensified with multi-layer barricades, concrete blocks, iron nails and walls of containers at border points.

On Monday, tractor trolleys set out from different parts of Punjab to join the protest march.

An excavator was also among the convoy of tractor trolleys, with a farmer in Amritsar saying it would be used to break the barricades.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha had announced that farmers would head to Delhi on Tuesday to press the Centre to accept their demands, including the enactment of a law to guarantee a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops.

Referring to the deadlock with the Centre over their demands, Pandher said they did not want a new committee concerning their demands, saying any committee would have meant putting the issue on the backburner.

“We do not want to break any barricades. We want resolution of our issues through dialogue. But if they (the Centre) do nothing then what will we do? It is our compulsion,” said Pandher while speaking to reporters in Fatehgarh Sahib district on Tuesday.

Pandher said while the media has blamed the farmers for blocking roads, the government itself has blocked roads.

“We grow foodgrains and we feed the country and they have grown a crop of nails” for us,” Pandher said while referring to the security arrangements made by the Haryana authorities to block farmers’ entry into the national capital.

“We will not indulge in any confrontation with the government. The government may fire a bullet or lathi-charge us. Jawans of police and paramilitary forces are also our brothers,” said Pandher, adding that their march will be peaceful.

He alleged that many farmers owing allegiance to them have been detained in Madhya Pradesh.

Lashing out at the Haryana government, Pandher said Haryana has been turned into “Kashmir valley.”

He alleged that the state government has sent policemen to every village to harass farmers and deployed water cannons.

He, however, claimed that they were getting immense support from the farmers in Haryana.

Following a second round of meeting that lasted more than five hours with the Centre late on Monday, Pandher said, “We do not think the government is serious about any of our demands. We do not think they want to fulfil our demands. Tomorrow, we will march towards Delhi at 10 am.”

However, Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, who, along with Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal, attended the second round of talks with the farm leaders, said a consensus was reached on most issues and a formula was proposed for resolving some others through the formation of a committee.

“We are still hopeful that farmer bodies will hold talks. We will try to resolve issues in the coming days,” Munda said after the meeting.