Delhi's Burari ground new epicentre of farmers' protests after tension at border points

New Delhi: After facing tear gas, water cannons and clashing with security personnel, hundreds of farmers entered the national capital on Friday to hold peaceful protest at a north Delhi ground, but there were still thousands at border points who were undecided to go to the identified demonstration site and a clarity in their decision is expected on Saturday.

Around 600 farmers protesting against the Centre's new farm laws headed to Sant Nirankari Ground, one of the biggest in the national capital, following several hours of confrontation with the police at different border points with Haryana.

After a meeting between farmer leaders and senior police officers, the Delhi Police allowed protesters to hold demonstration peacefully at Nirankari Ground, but senior farmer leader Darshan Pal later said they would stay put at border points on Friday night and a decision on whether to go to the identified protest site or not will be taken on Saturday.

At the Tikri border, some groups of farmers were escorted by police personnel around 3 pm amid tight security and taken towards the identified protest site. But those gathered at the Singhu border, one of the main routes used to access the city from Punjab, had not entered the city till late evening.

Farmers' protest
People move away from tear gas released by the police to stop farmers opposing the newly passed farm bills from entering the national capital Delhi, at Singhu border, November 27, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Carrying flags and shouting slogans, thousands of farmers gathered at various entry points into the national capital in a determined bid to push their way through as part of their 'Delhi Chalo' march while police blocked them with barricades, tear gas shells and batons.

Earlier in the day, protesting farmers at the Delhi-Haryana Singhu border pelted stones and broke barricades as they clashed with the Delhi Police which used tear gas shells to disperse them. The security personnel used lathi-charge against the protesters for a brief time. Around three police officials were also injured.

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Members of various farmer organisations gather at Punjab-Haryana border as they participate in the 'Delhi Chalo' protest march. Photo: PTI

Angry farmers, who were denied entry into the national capital for their 'Delhi Chalo' march against the farm laws, managed to break the first layer of barricading, at the border.

Plumes of smoke were seen as security personnel used multiple rounds of tear gas to disperse the farmers at the Singhu border.

A multi-layer barricading was in place at the Singhu border to prevent farmers from entering the national capital.

Farmers break barricades in Haryana braving tear-gas shells, water cannons
Flames emerge from tear gas released by the police to stop farmers opposing the newly passed farm bills from entering the national capital Delhi, at Singhu border, Friday. Photo: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

At the Tigri border, security personnel used water cannons to disperse farmers trying to gain entry to Delhi.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on Friday denied permission to the Delhi Police to convert the city's stadiums into temporary jails in view of the protest by farmers against the new farm laws.

While rejecting the police's request, Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain said every Indian citizen has the constitutional right to protest peacefully for which they cannot be put in jails.

In a letter to the principal home secretary, Jain said the central government should accept the demands of the protesters and added that putting farmers in jails is not the solution.

Meanwhile, Delhi Metro services resumed on all lines on Friday evening after they were disrupted for a few hours at multiple places because of the 'Delhi Chalo' march.

"Services normal at all corridors from 5:35pm onwards," the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) tweeted, adding that the services will be regular on all lines on Saturday.

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Swaraj India National President Yogendra Yadav along with farmers of various farmer organisation being detained by police during the 'Delhi Chalo' protest march over the farm reform bills. Photo: PTI

Due to protest, vehicles moved bumper-to-bumper on key roads after the Delhi Police closed several border points with Haryana in view of the protest march on Friday.

Dhansa and Jharoda Kalan borders were closed for traffic movement due to the demonstration and the commuters were asked to take an alternative route, the Delhi Traffic Police said earlier in the day.

"Tikri Border is completely closed for traffic movement by local police. Traffic intending to go towards Haryana is also closed. All motorists are advised to avoid this route in view of the protest by Kishan Sangharsh committee," it tweeted.

Farmers break barricades in Haryana braving tear-gas shells, water cannons
Police personnel use water canons on farmers to stop them from crossing the Punjab-Haryana border during 'Delhi Chalo' protest march against the new farm laws, near Ambala. Photo: PTI

The police asked people to "totally avoid outer Ring Road, Mukarba Chowk, Grand Trunk Road, NH-44 and Singhu Border" as the traffic was "very very heavy in this area".

Heightened checking near the Dhaula Kuan police post led to obstruction in traffic in the carriageway from Gurgaon towards Dhaula Kuan.

Punjab farmers, representing over 30 farm bodies, had announced they would go to Delhi through several routes -- Lalru, Shambhu, Patiala-Pehowa, Patran-Khanauri, Moonak-Tohana, Ratia-Fatehabad and Talwandi-Sirsa. Tension was escalating at all the border points.

Farmers have assembled near the borders in tractor-trolleys laden with rations and essentials for the march. Authorities in Haryana have imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in several parts of the state to prevent assembly of the protesters.

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Farmers on their way to cross Singhu Border stand at a distance from a police barricade as they prepare to enter Delhi during 'Delhi Chalo' protest march against the new farm laws, in New Delhi, Friday. Photo: PTI

Some 500 farmers' organisations from six states -- Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Kerala -- had planned the November 26-27 march for two months to press the central government to repeal the recently enacted farm laws.

Under the laws enacted in September that Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a watershed for agriculture, farmers are free to sell their produce anywhere, including to big corporate buyers, instead of at government-regulated wholesale markets where farmers are assured of a minimum procurement price.

Farmers' protest
Farmers on their way to cross Singhu Border and enter Delhi during 'Delhi Chalo' protest march against the new farm laws, in New Delhi, Friday. Photo: PTI

Many farmer organisations oppose the new law, saying it would leave small growers with little bargaining power. They also say they fear the government will eventually withdraw price support for wheat and rice.

The government says there is no plan to eliminate the wholesale markets.

(With inputs from PTI & Reuters)