New Delhi: Protests by thousands of farmers turned violent on Tuesday after they were stopped at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border by the police which resorted to water cannons and tear-gar shells to disperse them. To convince the agitating farmers to withdraw their protest, the government announced that a committee of chief ministers will look into their demands, but the protesters stayed put saying they were not “satisfied” with the assurance.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh held discussions with Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and a few others to discuss the farmers’ issue, after which Union Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat met the protesters to assure them that their demands will be looked into.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Naresh Tikait who is spearheading the protests said that farmers will not accept the government assurance and will go ahead with their protests.

Following this, the district administration announced that all schools and colleges in Ghaziabad will remain closed on Wednesday as a preventive measure.  (Schools, Colleges in Ghaziabad to Remain Shut on Wednesday as Farmers Say ‘Protests Won’t Stop’)

Leaders of the farmers’ protest have said that they have decided to stay the night at the Delhi-UP border on Tuesday, although, Wednesday’s protest strategy is yet to be decided. In all probability, agitation is to be continued on Wednesday and the decision to march towards Kisanghat will be taken by Tuesday night.

The protesting farmers had spent Monday night on the roads under the open sky here as they were not allowed to enter the national capital.

National Highways leading to the national capital were swamped with farmers who came in from places as far as Gonda, Basti and Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh as well as the sugarcane belt of western Uttar Pradesh.

Police picketed the border with Uttar Pradesh, imposing prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more people and holding of any public meeting, usage of any amplifier, loudspeaker, and similar instruments.

Opposition Slams Govt Over Police Action

The police action over the agitating farmers evoked sharp criticism from the opposition, with the Congress alleging that the “Badshah of Delhi Sultanate was drunk with power”.

The parties accused the central government of being ‘anti-farmer’ and demanded allowing the protesters to enter Delhi to peacefully air their grievances, even as the government went into a huddle to mull over ways to convince the farmers to call off their protest.

Slamming the government over the police action, AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal batted for the farmers and questioned why they were not allowed to enter Delhi.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Wardha accused the BJP of “brutally beating up” farmers at the Delhi border on International Day of Non-Violence and said they cannot even air their grievances in the national capital.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati termed the police lathi-charge on agitating farmers the “height” of anarchy and warned that the ruling BJP should be prepared to bear its consequences.

Police use tear gas to disperse farmers protesting at Delhi-UP border during Kisan Kranti Padyatra in New Delhi

Police use tear gas to disperse farmers protesting at Delhi-UP border during Kisan Kranti Padyatra in New Delhi.

CPI(M) chief Sitaram Yechury also criticised the Modi government, alleging that the Centre is forcing farmers to be under debt burden and commit suicide. “It reconfirms the fact that Modi government is anti-farmers. Instead of providing relief to farmers they are exasperating the crisis further forcing farmers to be under debt burden and distress suicides. We haven’t seen such an agrarian distress in India since independence,” he said.

Supporting the protests by farmers, former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav said that the government has not fulfilled its promises which has led to the the situation. “This government has not fulfilled the promises it made to farmers, so it is all but natural that farmers would protest. It is unfortunate and we fully support the farmers,” he said.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also slammed the police action on the protesting farmers. “On the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Modi government has shown that it is no different from the pre-Independence British government in India. The British government then used to exploit the farmers and today, the Modi government is firing tear gas shells at farmers,” he said.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashvi Yadav said that by discarding the Swaminathan committee report, the Modi government has stabbed the farmers in the back.

“Modi ji, though farmers, unlike capitalists, cannot fill your pockets, but at least don’t get them beaten up. If you would have seen poverty, you would not have committed so many atrocities on farmers,” he tweeted in Hindi.

Delhi Police Defends Its Action, Says 7 Policemen Injured in Protests

However, the Delhi Police refuted the allegations and said they used only “minimum required force” to control the situation.

Police said a section of protesters, who were participating in the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) march, suddenly turned violent as the cops tried to persuade them not to break the barricades.

The Delhi Police also claimed that seven of its personnel, including an assistant commissioner of police, were injured during the protests.

Police personnel clash with farmers protesting at Delhi-UP border during Kisan Kranti Padyatra in New Delhi

Police personnel clash with farmers protesting at Delhi-UP border during Kisan Kranti Padyatra in New Delhi.

Despite requests that the protesters wait for the outcome of the talks between their leaders and the government, a section of the crowd suddenly turned violent and tried to break the barricades with tractor-trolleys and were also carrying lathis, the police said.

“Tractor-trolleys were used with violent force by this aggressive section to break down three layers of strong barricading. Some protesters also resorted to stone pelting and wielded lathis causing injuries to police personnel deployed on duty,” the police alleged.

Why Are Farmers Protesting

Farmers marching towards Delhi under BKU’s protest call over demands ranging from farm loan waiver to cut in fuel prices, were stopped at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, as they tried to run through the border, surmounting the barricades.

The farmers, riding tractors and trolleys, broke barricades of the UP Police and then started proceeding towards the barricades put up by the Delhi Police, a senior police officer earlier said.

Police had to use water cannons to disperse the protesters, who also indulged in sloganeering. Tear gas was also used to disperse the crowd.

The main demands of the farmers include implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report, removing ban on the usage of tractors above 10 years, clearing out pending payments of sugarcane purchase, increased price of sugar supplied and minimum support prices.

Amar Pal, 35, a farmer from Muzaffarnagar alleged that some police personnel “resorted to lathicharge” on some of the protesting farmers.

The Kisan Kranti Yatra, which began from Tikait Ghat in Haridwar on September 23, was joined by farmers from various parts of Uttar Pradesh.

“We are not seeking any alms from the government. We want our right,” said Harmik Singh, a farmer who came from Meerut.

Farmers are in distress because of high electricity prices and fuel rates shooting through the roof.

“Aap ko 500 rupiya ka gas theek lagta hai? (Does LPG price of Rs 500 sound right to you,” a farmer asked.

(With PTI inputs)