India

Tense night in Ghazipur: police, farmers face off, protests swell

Tensions rose at Delhi’s Ghazipur border Thursday after the administration in neighbouring UP’s Ghaziabad district issued orders for protesting farmers to vacate the site by night.

By evening, as police in anti-riot gear started spreading out at the site, the protesters camped there and their leaders, including BKU’s Rakesh Tikait, said they would not leave.

Tikait also issued an emotional appeal on stage at the site where he said that the agitation would continue. As videos of the farm leader breaking down started doing the rounds, farmers in Haryana blocked the Chandigarh national highway near Kandela village of Jind district.

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Late Thursday, more farmers started arriving in Ghazipur even as several appeals were made by leaders in western UP asking others to join Friday.

 Tikait’s speech came hours after Delhi Police visited the site to hand over notices to him and fellow union leader Joginder Singh Bajwa, asking why action should not be taken against them for breaching the agreement over the Republic Day tractor rally.

A mahapanchayat was also held in Tikait’s native village of Sisauli in Muzaffarnagar, where a public gathering has been scheduled at GIC ground Friday.

At the protest site, meanwhile, many protesters were armed with sticks and others were seen packing their bags and putting them in trucks, saying they feared someone would loot them.

Ghazipur is one of the three main sites for the protests against the three farms laws passed by the Centre, with farmers from UP and Uttarakhand based here for almost two months. On Republic Day, a group of farmers from this site was among those that had deviated from the agreed route and headed to Red Fort.

On Thursday, the situation started to escalate as soon as police reinforcements started arriving. It was then that Tikait took to the stage and broke down while speaking to his supporters.

 At the protest site, meanwhile, many protesters were armed with sticks and others were seen packing their bags and putting them in trucks, saying they feared someone would loot them.

“This is a conspiracy against farmers. The three farm laws have not been repealed and we will not go anywhere… This is a betrayal of farmers,” Tikait said, tears streaming down his face.

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“We will not vacate the protest site and we will not court arrest… I know what will happen to me and my supporters after we are arrested… We will get shot here if need be, and we shall die before we leave… I will hang myself… If anything goes wrong, the police and administration will be responsible… I have never said anything against BJP. I have respected them… We are ready for your lathis and bullets,” Tikait told supporters.

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By 11 pm, with no move from police to evict the protesters, the situation began to stabilise. “Three companies of CAPF, six companies of PAC and 1,000 police personnel have been deployed at the border along with local police of several stations. There is deployment on both ends of the border. We will observe and decide on a course of action,” said Praveen Kumar, IG Range Meerut.

Tikait’s speech came hours after Delhi Police visited the site to hand over notices to him and fellow union leader Joginder Singh Bajwa, asking why action should not be taken against them for breaching the agreement over the Republic Day tractor rally.

“You are also directed to provide names of the perpetrators of such violent acts belonging to your organisation. You are directed to submit your response within three days,” the notice said.

There has been no power at the site since Wednesday afternoon, and protesters said they had not got any water supply through tankers on Thursday.

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