The national capital has fortified itself for a protest that it may not officially witness today. Ten days after unprecedented violence during a farmers’ tractor rally marred India’s Republic Day celebrations in parts of Delhi, the protesters are set to observe a three-hour chakka jam (road block) across the country, except in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and in the city. Authorities, however, are taking no chances.
The block, called by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) demanding the withdrawal of three contentious Central farm laws, will come into effect at noon today and will be observed along major national and state highways across the country.
“There will be no road blockade in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand tomorrow; roads will be blocked in rest of the country excluding Delhi. The reason is that they can be called to Delhi any time, so they are kept on standby,” Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said. The SKM, however, gave exception only to Delhi; it has said that all protest sites in and around the city are already in chakka jam mode.
Nevertheless, extra security has been deployed and barricades strengthened, which may potentially lead to traffic congestion on many key Delhi roads. Extensive measures have been undertaken at the Ghazipur border point with even water cannon vehicles deployed.
The Red Fort area, the biggest point of disturbance on Republic Day, has received particular focus today.
Around 50,000 police, paramilitary, and reserve forces personnel have been deployed overall in the Delhi-NCR region while at least 12 metro stations have been put on alert, the police have said.
The police, on high alert, will be monitoring social media to track rumours and act against those sparking or spreading them. “We are in touch with the police forces of other states also,” Delhi police spokesperson Chinmoy Biswal has said. Internet services have already been shut down in the three key protest sites around Delhi: Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh have been camping around these three border points for over 70 days, demanding the repeal of the laws passed by Parliament in September 2020. The laws are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The United Nations has, meanwhile, called for maximum restraint from authorities in the wake of the farmers’ protest.
#India: We call on the authorities and protesters to exercise maximum restraint in ongoing #FarmersProtests. The rights to peaceful assembly & expression should be protected both offline & online. It’s crucial to find equitable solutions with due respect to #HumanRights for all.
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) February 5, 2021