Leaders observe fast on Gandhi’s death anniversary

New Delhi, Jan 30: Agitating farmer leaders held a day-long fast at various protest sites on Delhi’s borders on Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary on Saturday as the stir against the agri laws appeared to regain momentum after rallying support from the agricultural community of the crucial western Uttar Pradesh region.

More farmers gathered at Ghazipur on the Delhi-Meerut highway, that has now become the new focal point of the stir, while union leaders claimed that protesters were also heading back to Singhu and Tikri borders from Punjab and Haryana, days after the crowds had waned following the violence at the tractor rally on January 26.

The administration remained on high alert with internet services temporarily suspended at the Singhu, Ghazipur, and Tikri borders of the national capital, as well as the adjoining areas. Haryana has already suspended the internet in 14 districts.

Security personnel, including from anti-riot police and paramilitary forces, were deployed in strength. Multiple layers of barricades, including concrete blocks, were being put at the protest sites.

Wearing garlands, the farmer leaders, who had called for observing ‘Sadbhavana Diwas’  (Harmony Day) on Saturday after the immense outrage over violence by protesters during their Republic Day tractor rally, sat on the dais during the fast, as crowds of supporters swelled, especially in Ghazipur where the Bharatiya Kisan Union is leading the protest.

Addressing the protesters in Ghazipur, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, whose emotional appeal had galvanised farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to flock to the protest site, said they have fought this battle for over two months now, and “they won’t relent or retreat”.

A multitude of green-and-white caps, symbolic of the unions spearheading the battle, union flags and the Tricolour, planted on tractors, dotted the highway. On various tractors and camps, photos of legendary farmer leaders such as Chaudhary Charan Singh and Mahendra Singh Tikait have been put up.

“This is not a political protest. Anybody who shares the ideology of the BKU and Rakesh Tikait is welcome here. But it is our appeal to those who do not wish to support the movement till the end that please do not come only to leave in between,” said BKU’s Meerut zone president Pawan Khatana.

Several opposition parties, including the Congress, TMC, AAP, RLD and the Left Front have openly supported the stir.

Abhimanyu Kohar, a senior member of Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, which is an umbrella body of farmer unions, said the ongoing agitation will gain strength as farmers in large numbers will join them in the coming days.

Another farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said in Chandigarh that he expects a record gathering by February 2 at the border points of Delhi. While condemning the “unfortunate” violence in Delhi on Republic Day, he also criticised the government for suspending internet services.

To a question on joining the investigation following notices issued by the Delhi Police to around 20 farmer leaders, including him, in connection with the Republic Day violence, Rajewal said, “We will send them a reply.” – PTI