PTC Web Desk: Tensions soared at the Shambhu border crossing between Punjab and Haryana as farmers, rallying under the 'Delhi Chalo' call, faced tear gas, water cannons, and other forceful tactics from the government. The clash erupted as an estimated one lakh farmers from Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh moved towards Delhi in protest, reminiscent of the 2020/21 demonstrations that brought the city to a halt for months.
Violent Confrontation Unfolds
Visuals from the Shambhu border, situated over 200 km from Delhi, depicted a chaotic scene with smoke, tear gas, and clashes between farmers and security forces. The use of drones to disperse tear gas and outnumbered police dropping smoke bombs added to the intensity. Farmers, some armed with stones, defied barriers and engaged in confrontations with police personnel, marking the first signs of violence in this round of protests.
Preparation for the Protest
Leading up to the protest, the police in Haryana and Punjab took preemptive measures, installing concrete slabs and heavy barricades to block highways and hinder the movement of tractors and protesters. Several farmers faced detention as they attempted to remove these barriers. Concrete slabs, iron nails, and barbed wire fences were strategically placed on key roads entering Delhi to impede the entry of tractors and trollies.
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Nationwide Bharat Bandh Planned
Expressing solidarity with the farmers, the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha warned that the use of excessive force would only fuel the opposition. In response to the government's crackdown, the SKM, comprising around 200 farmer unions, declared a nationwide Bharat Bandh on February 16. The movement aims to highlight the collective dissent against policies perceived as detrimental to the farming community.
Government's Defensive Measures
In anticipation of the protests, the ruling BJP engaged in discussions with farmer unions. However, no substantial resolution was reached on key concerns such as a law guaranteeing minimum support prices (MSP) for crops, loan waivers, and the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations. Despite some progress on repealing the Electricity Act, 2020, and compensating farmers killed in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri, the primary grievances remain unaddressed.
Farmers marching towards Delhi affirmed their preparedness for a prolonged protest. One of the protesters said they had stocked up on supplies for an extended stay, recalling the 2020 protests. The resolve among farmers stems from unmet promises made by the government during the previous demonstrations.
Political leaders, including Congress's Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, flayed the government's measures, questioning the use of obstacles against farmers. She accused the BJP of not fulfilling promises to farmers and called for accountability from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rakesh Tikait's Warning
Rakesh Tikait, a key figure in the 2020/21 protests, supported the 'Delhi Chalo' agitation and issued a warning against any government interference. He emphasised the diverse concerns of various farmer unions and expressed solidarity with those marching to Delhi.
As the situation unfolds, the clash at the Shambhu border marks a critical moment in the ongoing farmers' protests. The nationwide Bharat Bandh on February 16 will likely amplify the farmers' demands, keeping the spotlight on issues that have yet to be adequately addressed by the government.