The farmers, agitating against the Centre’s three farm legislation, on Saturday blocked the Western Peripheral Expressway to mark 100 days of the movement. Farmers from all age group gathered at the six-lane expressway outside the national capital with their cars, trucks and tractors as they staged a five-hour-long blockade to oppose three farm laws enacted in September 2020 they say hurt them by opening up the agriculture sector to private players.
The protest, which began at 11 am, would continue till 4 pm. Their plan of action included freeing up the toll plazas from collecting fees. Those protesting at Singhu border blocked the toll plazas located on the way to the KMP Expressway.
Besides, the farmers from Gazipur and Tikri borders blocked Dasna and Bahadurgarh toll plaza, respectively. Those sitting on the Shahjahanpur border also blocked the KMP Expressway touching Gurugram-Manesar.
“We are currently collating our strength. Farmers from across the state are coming for this cause. We are also moving as many of our trolleys have already reached the KMP,” Karamjit Singh, Haryana state president of Yogendra Yadav-led Jai Kisan Andolan told reporter.
“The Modi government has turned this protest movement into an ego issue. They are unable to see the pain of the farmers,” said Amarjeet Singh, a 68-year-old farmer from Punjab .”They have left us no option but to protest.”
PM Modi has called the laws much-needed reforms for the country’s vast and antiquated agriculture sector, and painted the protests as politically motivated.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday once again criticized the Centre and said the government is torturing the farmers, who are fighting for their rights. “Nails have been laid at the Delhi borders for sons of those who sacrifice their lives on the borders of the country. ‘Annadata’ ask for their rights, government tortures!” Gandhi tweeted in Hindi.
Tens of thousands of farmers from several states have been camped out on the outskirts of the national capital in bitter cold since December demanding a rollback of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
Their movement gained international attention and support, including from celebrities such as climate activist Greta Thunberg and US singer Rihanna, but several rounds of negotiations between farmer leaders and the government have failed.
The Central Government has lashed out at supporters of the protests and stands accused by rights activists of using heavy-handed tactics to curb the protests.
While the protests have been mostly peaceful, a brief spate of violence on January 26 led to the death of a protestor, and the police have filed criminal charges against eight journalists over alleged misreporting on the events of the day.
“The Indian authorities’ response to protests has focused on discrediting peaceful protesters, harassing critics of the government, and prosecuting those reporting on the events,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement last month.
As the capital braces for harsh summers and the harvesting season begins, farmers gathering on Saturday said they had no plans to turn back until their demands were met.
“Bitter cold didn’t affect our movement, and neither will deathly heat,” said Raja Singh, a 58-year-old farmer from Punjab.