New Delhi: Several people were injured as clashes erupted between the protesting farmers and a group of locals at Singhu on the Delhi-Haryana border on Friday as the police resorted to a lathicharge and used teargas shells to disperse the crowd.
In wake of the unrest triggered by the protests in the National Capital Region, the Haryana government on Friday extended the suspension of mobile Internet services, SMS services, and all dongle services in 17 districts across the state till 5 pm on January 30. The affected districts are Ambala, Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Kaithal, Panipat, Hisar, Jind, Rohtak, Bhiwani, Charkhi Dadri, Fatehabad, Rewari and Sirsa. The suspension is already in place in Sonipat, Palwal and Jhajjar districts.
The clashes erupted at Singhu at about 1.40 pm after a group of 200-odd people claiming to be “locals” managed to enter the farmers’ protest site despite the area being blocked by the police. Armed with sticks and iron rods, the group first demanded the farmers be removed from the site. Then they started vandalising the makeshift tents and throwing stones at the farmers.
The protesting farmers retaliated by throwing stones at the locals. The police was then forced to order a lathicharge and use teargas shells to bring the situation under control. Alipur SHO Pradeep Kumar claimed that he too was attacked with a sword by a protester and suffered injuries on his forearm.
Shortly after the clashes at Singhu, similar scenes were reported at Tikri, another Delhi-Haryana border protest site, where a group of people began opposing the farmers’ protests and demanded they vacate the site. The people said they would not allow the national flag to be “insulted”, obviously referring to the Red Fort violence on Republic Day.
A tense night at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border at Ghazipur saw the police first trying to drive the farmers away from protest site and then the protesters returning after watching a widely circulated video of Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait breaking down in tears and declaring that he was ready to “face bullets or kill himself”.
Mr Tikait announced emotionally that “we will commit suicide but won’t end the protest until the farm laws are repealed”. His words appeared to have a ripple effect in Punjab and Haryana, where a drive began to send more protesters and tractors to the protest sites around Delhi as backup.
As the security forces at the protest site thinned out overnight Thursday-Friday, more farmers from western Uttar Pradesh districts like Meerut, Baghpat, Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad and Bulandshahr reached the UP Gate by early Friday morning to join the agitation at the borders of Delhi for over the past two months.
At the Ghazipur border, Mr Tikait, meanwhile, said the farmers were ready to hold talks with the Centre once again. This offer has come for the first time after the national capital saw violence during the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day.
Mr Tikait said: “We will once again talk to the Centre on the agricultural laws. We will discuss all the possible ways. We have sent a message to the government that we want to talk.” When asked whether they will agree to the government’s proposal to suspend the laws for 18 months, he replied: “No, no, we will talk with the government again.” So far, there have been eleven rounds of talks between the Centre and the farmers’ unions without any breakthrough.
Support for the farmers continued Friday with Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal tweeting in support of the agitation. He sent deputy CM Manish Sisodia and health minister Satyendra Jain to assess the situation at the protest sites. Delhi Jal Board tankers were also rushed there to provide drinking water to the protesters.
Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh Chaudhary also announced support to the BKU. “It is a matter of life and death for farmers, but do not worry. All have to stay together, united in this — this is Chaudhary Sahab’s (Ajit Singh’s) message,” the RLD vice-president said in a tweet in Hindi.