New Delhi: A tense standoff between farmers and police has escalated into violent clashes at the Punjab-Haryana border, where thousands of farmers are trying to march to Delhi to join a massive protest against the government’s farm policies. The police have used tear gas, water cannons, drones, and barricades to stop the farmers from crossing the border, but the farmers have resisted with stones, tractors, and determination.
The farmers, who belong to various unions and groups, have been protesting for months against the three farm laws that were passed by the Parliament in 2020, which they say will harm their livelihoods and benefit big corporations. The farmers have demanded that the laws be repealed and that the government guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) for their crops.
The farmers have called for a ‘Delhi Chalo’ (Let’s go to Delhi) rally on Tuesday, 13 February, to intensify their agitation and put pressure on the government to meet their demands. However, the Haryana government, which is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the same party that leads the central government – has denied permission for the rally and sealed the border with Punjab, where most of the farmers are coming from.
The situation turned violent on Tuesday afternoon when the farmers reached the Shambhu border near Ambala in Haryana and tried to break through the heavy security deployment. The police fired more than 100 tear gas shells to disperse the crowd, but the farmers retaliated with stones and sticks. Some farmers also used their tractors to remove the huge boulders and cement blocks that were placed on the road to block their way. A media person and a farmer were injured by the tear gas shells during the confrontation.
The farmers also tried to cross the border from other points, such as the Khanauri border in Sangrur district of Punjab, where the police also used tear gas to stop them. The farmers managed to break the first layer of security and gathered on a bridge, where they raised slogans and waved flags. Some farmers also attempted to reach Haryana by walking through the fields or going under the bridge, but they were met with more tear gas shells.
The farmers have vowed not to retreat and to continue their march to Delhi, where they plan to hold a peaceful protest at the Ramlila Maidan. They have received support from the villagers near the border, who have offered them food and water. The farmers have also received solidarity messages from other farmer unions, opposition parties, civil society groups, and celebrities.
The Haryana Police have justified their use of force, saying that they were acting by the law and order situation and that they had to control the stone-pelting by the farmers. The police have said that no one is allowed to create disturbance and that those who do so will be dealt with strictly. The police have also said that the situation is under control and that the Shambhu border has been completely closed.
The farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher, who is leading the march from Punjab, has condemned the police action and said that the farmers are under control and peaceful. He has said that he is waiting for his colleagues and that everything will be decided at the border. He has also said that he has no information about the meeting between the central government and the farmers that is scheduled for Wednesday, 14 February. He has said that the farmers want to resolve the issue through dialogue and that the government should enact a law on MSP.