Farmers’ Protest: Stopped From Travelling To Chandigarh, Protesting Farmers Start Marching To Ambala
Kisan Unions from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand were to assemble in Chandigarh today, August 22, to hold a rally demanding compensation for losses suffered during the recent floods. However, they were stopped and some farmers were detained.
Brijendra Dubey 22 Aug 2023 12:36 PM GMT
At the Shambhu Barrier on the Punjab Haryana border, on the Delhi/Chandigarh highway, Gurmeet Singh, a farmer from Baman Khedi village in Haryana sits in a police bus. A few policemen sit in the rear. Gurmeet Singh and his tractor have been detained by the police.
“I have done nothing wrong, why have they detained me,” Gurmeet Singh wanted to know. He was one of the many farmers who were moving towards Chandigarh on his tractor when he was stopped and detained, and his tractor seized.
Like Gurmeet, thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand were to assemble in Chandigarh today, August 22, to hold a massive farmers' rally demanding compensation for losses suffered during the recent floods in north India, which destroyed kharif crops on millions of hectares of farmlands.
But farmers and their leaders are not being allowed to reach Chandigarh, and there has been a police crackdown, and some farmers have been detained by police. Yesterday, a 70-year-old protesting farmer died when he was run over by a tractor-trolley in Sangrur, Punjab.
However, farmers are adamant on holding the rally and pressing for their demands of compensation. They are also demanding release of fellow farmers who have been detained by police.
“They [police] can’t keep me here indefinitely. If not today, I shall go tomorrow,” Gurmeet said defiantly while sitting inside the police can. “I have done no wrong, not harmed anyone. Just because we are poor, they are doing this,” the farmer said.
Not allowed to move towards Chandigarh, hundreds of farmers have assembled at Lohsimbli, Ambala, Hisar Road, and are holding a dharna on the road. Protesting farmers have started their padyatra to Chandigarh from Ambala, about 60 kilometres away.
“There are 16 Kisan Sangathans (farmer organisations) taking part in this protest, 10 from Punjab and six from Haryana,” Satish Chairman from Hisar district in Haryana, a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Mazdoor Union, told Gaon Connection. He along with another 200 or so farmers waited at Loh Simbli village not far from Shambhu Barrier. They awaited the arrival of more farmer leaders to draw out an alternative ‘battle plan’ to reach Chandigarh.
According to him, a whole month ago, the government had been presented with the demands of the affected farmers who had lost everything in the recent floods and rains in the two states. They were seeking compensation for the hundreds of homes, cattle and thousands of acres of farmland that were washed away.
“We had asked for a compensation of Rs 50,000 for farmers whose crops were damaged, had lost one lakh rupees for those who had lost cattle, five lakh rupees for those who lost their homes and 10 lakh rupees for those who lost a family member in the floods,” Chairman said.
“We had given the state and central government a month to give us the compensation. Today we were supposed to have had a meeting in Chandigarh, but we are not being allowed to proceed there,” he said. “But once the farmers unite, no one can stop us,” he said.
Farmers sat in groups, some on the roadside, some in the shade of their tractors, listening to Ashok Balara, a fellow farmer who urged them to be patient. “If they do not allow us to proceed to Chandigarh, we will have the dharna right here,” Balara from the Rashtriya Sanyojak Akhil Bharatiya Jat Arakshan Samiti, said.
Farmers were angry that some of their leaders who were called for talks with the government were detained. “The saddest thing is that at Sangrur, from where the CM of Punjab, Bhagwat Singh Mann is, a farmer, Pritam Singh died as a result of a lathi charge,” Balara added.
Farmers are despondent that more than a month after the floods and rain, nothing much has happened for their rehabilitation or compensation. “We only want to get back to some normalcy in our lives. But we can do that only if we are compensated. The government has turned a deaf ear to our complaints and turned away. That is the reason we were on our way to Chandigarh. The government is accusing us of blocking the roads, but it is they who are blocking the roads,” Kapur Singh Bamal, a farmer from Hisar told Gaon Connection.
The farmer leaders told Gaon Connection that their plan to protest peacefully in Chandigarh had been conveyed to the respective state governments of Punjab and Haryana and the Central Government, a month ago. They felt betrayed by all the arrests and raids that were happening even as they spoke at various places.
“But now it is too late for negotiations. First release all the farmers you have detained, then we shall come to the table,” Tejveer Singh, spokesperson for BKU Shaheed Bhagat Singh Group, said.
It has not been all that long since the farmers’ agitation against the three farm laws that lasted more than a year before the government had to repeal them. The memory is fresh in the minds of many of the farmers Gaon Connection spoke to, and a lot of them brought that up as they addressed the disgruntled farmers.