Farmers fail to enter Chandigarh for rally, camp outside

Chandigarh, Aug 10 (IANS) Hundreds of farmers, headed for a protest rally to Chandigarh Tuesday but stopped by the police, sat on an indefinite sit-in protest on the outskirts of the city, a farmer’s union leader said.

Members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal group) led by its president Balbir Singh Rajewal led a peaceful protest march from Mohali town in Punjab but were stopped from entering Chandigarh.

Over 800 farmers from different parts of Punjab came in tractor-trolleys, buses and cars to participate in the rally and many had already erected tents on the roadside.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union had called for the rally to pressurise the Punjab government to increase productivity bonus on crops, disburse the Rs.800 crore central package early to farmers and relieve them from pending electricity bills.

They wanted to hold their protest rally in the heart of Chandigarh in Sector 17, the commercial hub of the city. But the administration imposed Section 144, which bans gathering of five or more person, across the city except in the Sector 25 rally ground.

After being denied entry, Rajewal exhorted the farmers to remain peaceful and to camp at the same place till the administration allows them to enter the city.

‘We will not resort to any kind of violence and will wait patiently till they allow us to enter Chandigarh. We will not move from here and camp here for an indefinite period. We will cook our own food and arrange everything for us here only,’ said Rajewal.

‘All our talks with the Punjab government and other officials have failed. There is so much corruption in the system due to which poor farmers are suffering for the last many years. We are ready to face all atrocities but we will not change our decision,’ he added.

Rajewal also threatened to stop the supply of vegetables to Chandigarh if they are not allowed to enter the city.

‘Chandigarh is the capital city of Punjab and police have no right to stop us from entering. This is totally undemocratic and intolerable. If they continue doing this, then we will stop supply of vegetables, fruits and milk coming into this city from the Punjab side,’ said Rajewal.

Elaborate security arrangements were made in Chandigarh and all 20 entry points from Punjab were sealed Tuesday in view of the farmers’ rally here.

‘We have made elaborate law and order and security arrangements. All the 20 outer-border posts have been established under the supervision of senior police officials,’ Chandigarh Senior Superintendent of Police S.S. Srivastava said.

‘Nearly 1,600 police personnel and home guard volunteers have been mobilised to keep the situation under control. ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) and CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) jawans are also deployed here,’ he said.

Chandigarh District Magistrate Brijendra Singh said: ‘Section 144 has been imposed all across the city. Liquor vends adjoining the Chandigarh border with Punjab have been closed. Even the petrol pumps at some critical locations have been closed.’

Chandigarh Police and administration are extra cautious this time as in September last year protesters of a similar rally turned violent in various parts of the city. One person had died and nearly 100 were hurt in clashes between police and farmers.

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