Bharat Bandh: Massive protests against farm bills throw life out of gear across Punjab and Haryana

Thousands of farmers held massive protests as part of the call for a ‘Bharat Bandh’, blocking highways and railway tracks to register their ire against three farm bills passed by Parliament

Bharat Bandh: Massive protests against farm bills throw life out of gear across Punjab and Haryana

Bipin Bhardwaj

Thousands of farmers in Punjab and Haryana held massive protests on Friday as part of the call for ‘Bharat Bandh’ against three farm Bills recently passed in Parliament, throwing normal life out of gear for several hours. No untoward incident was, however, reported as of now.

The protesters, which included women and children, blocked highways and main roads, and in some instances parking their vehicles, especially tractors, across the roads to block traffic. This put road users to great hardship. To avoid any untoward incident, security was tightened at interstate borders and sensitive places. However, long queues of vehicles were seen on National Highways crossing Punjab and Haryana at many places, with the GT Road being the worst hit due to huge traffic jams in Punjab.

Cutting across party lines, leaders, activists and workers of all parties comprising Congress, Shiromani akali Dal, Aam Aadmi Party and other political outfits joined the protesting farmers and commission agents (aarhtiyas) in lodging a strong protest against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.

In Haryana, farmers braved the sweltering heat and started converging at the highways and other designated protest places and raised anti-government slogans.

The irate farmers virtually took over the highways and shut down all non-essential traffic. The Punjab-Haryana border was sealed at Shambhu barrier near Ambala. The Delhi-Amritsar highway was blocked at several places by farmers from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and activists of Marxist Party of India.

Several of the farmers' protests were noteworthy in that they refused to allow politicians to sit in with them. They criticised political parties for only caring about votes.

Farmers in Karnal blocked roads in Assandh and Nissing. Besides, they blocked the Karnal-Meerut road near the sugar mill. In Yamunanagar, farmers under the banner of the BKU blocked railway tracks near Mehrampur village of the district to show solidarity with fellow farmers.

In Hisar, agitated farmers staged a protest demonstration outside the residence of Haryana Minister Anoop Dhanak. Farmers led by independent MLA from Meham, Balraj Kundu, blocked the Delhi-Hisar National Highway 9 at Bhaini Maharajpur village in Rohtak.

Hundreds of farmers in Kalka and Pinjore also took out a tractor march against the Union government over the three farm Bills. Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union president Gurnam Singh Chaduni also addressed a gathering of protesting farmers in Pinjore. Congress leaders, including Kalka MLA Pardeep Chaudhary, extended their support to farmers.

Punjab too saw a virtually complete shutdown with activists of 31 farmers' groups protesting under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) across the state. Among the farmers' unions which supported the bandh call included Bharti Kisan Union Krantikari, Kirti Kisan Union, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee and BKU (Lakhowal).

A call for the bandh brought farmers to the roads in Bathinda, Jalandhar, Patiala, Moga, Ferozepur, Fazilka, Barnala, Faridkot, Muktsar, Mansa, Bathinda, Ropar, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Pathankot and other districts of Punjab.

Accompanied by former Union Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Chief Sukhbir Singh Badal led a protest in Lambi. Addressing a rally, he called for the state Chief Minister’s intervention. "Punjab CM should call an immediate Cabinet meeting & pass an ordinance to declare the state as one ‘mandi’ to ensure that the recently passed farm bills are not enforceable in Punjab,” he said.

Some farmers gathered across several locations to disrupt vehicular movement while the others held protest marches. On Thursday, farmer unions began a three-day "Rail roko". The National Highways, however, were partially blocked.

Punjabi singers like Harbhajan Mann, Ranjit Bawa, Kulwinder Billa, Shivjot and Avkash Mann also joined the farmers' protest in Nabha.

The supply of essential commodities was hit badly across the state. The fruit and vegetable markets remained closed in all the cities and towns. The supply of milk and poultry products was also partially affected in many areas in Punjab. The Chandigarh-Bathinda highway was completely blocked by farmers.

Farmers staged a protest by blocking Bathinda-Zirakpur National Highway at Rampura Phul in Bathinda district.

In Patiala, the supply of essential supplies, including milk and poultry products, was hit as farmers held blockades on roads leading to the city. Hundreds of farmers held a protest and blocked the Sangrur-Patiala highway. The Chandigarh-Bathinda highway too was completely blocked by farmers.

Meanwhile, taking precautionary measures, Ferozepure Railway division suspended operation of all special trains in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir till September 26. The farmers have identified as many 30 sites on the railway tracks in Punjab where they had launched protests by staging sit-ins on the railway tracks.

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