The Haryana police and the protesting farmers on Sunday came close to a clash at the Rewari-Alwar border after hundreds of protesters started marching towards Delhi to join the main agitation against the centre’s contentious agriculture laws. According to reports, the police fired several rounds of tear gas shells to halt the march.
The farmers were trying to breach the police cordon and barricades to move further, sources say. The police have managed to halt them at a local over-bridge. “We have stopped them (farmers) at Masani,” Rewari police chief, Abhishek Jorwal, was quoted by news agency PTI as saying.
In November last year, thousands of farmers from Punjab had to brave water cannons and tear gas shells as the Haryana police tried to stop their protest march to the national capital. The two sides were involved in several clashes on the way to the national capital.
Meanwhile, in Punjab’s Sangrur district, the police todaylathi-charged a group of farmers that was trying to march towards a meeting chaired by the state BJP president, Ashwani Kumar Sharma.
The fresh push by farmers comes a day before the protesting farmers’ meet with the centre for the next round of talks to break the weeks-long deadlock.
After the sixth round of the farmer-centre talks last week, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said that the two sides had arrived at an “agreement” on two of the four main demands. The government, sources said, offered to withdraw the Electricity Amendment Bill and the penal provisions for stubble burning in the Air Quality Commission Ordinance at the meeting. However, no progress was made on the farmers’ main demands — a repeal of the three laws and giving legal guarantee for the minimum support price system.
The farmers have threatened to intensify their protests if the centre declines the remaining two demands at the January 4 meeting. They have said they will take out a protest march of tractors at the GT-Karnal road on January 6 if an agreement is not reached.
A joint front of 40 farmer unions, which has been leading the protests, has also threatened to march towards Delhi if the demands are not met by the Republic Day.
“The government has refused to agree, even in principle, to our demand for legal right to purchase at MSP. We have no alternative and if the government does not meet our demand by the 26th of January, we will be left with no option other than to start marching peacefully into Delhi,” their statement said on Saturday.
Farmers fear the laws will make them susceptible to exploitation by corporate houses. They also claim that through these laws, the centre wants to scrap the minimum support price system.
The government, however, says the laws are not aimed at ending the existing system but providing better avenues to farmers to sell their crops. It has promised that the MSP system will not be scrapped.