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After a rough day, farmers halt in Panipat close to Delhi

After a rough day, farmers halt in Panipat close to Delhi

Representational Image, credit: PTI

Chandigarh : Protesting farmers heading to Delhi spent last night at Panipat close to the national capital.

Tens of thousands of them on Thursday braved tear gas and water cannons, breaching barricades on the Punjab-Haryana border.

They are heading to the national capital to mark their protest over the Centre's new agriculture laws.

Once in Haryana they were joined by local farmers, and decided to stop for the night at Panipat 85 km away from Delhi.

Meanwhile, the Bharti Kisan Union Ekta-Ugrahan might start their journey from the Khanauri border in Punjab's Sangrur district on Friday.

BKU-Ugrahan President Joginder Ugrahan said: "If we are not allowed to cross Haryana and head towards Delhi, our protest destination will be the border points for a week."

Meanwhile, Punjab legislators Parminder Dhindsa and Sukhpal Khera were taken into preventive custody by Delhi Police.

Several protesters and policemen were injured in scuffles on Thursday after farmers broke barricades and threw them down from a bridge ahead of the Punjab-Haryana border in Shambhu in Punjab's Patiala and near Haryana's Ambala.

On Thursday morning, thousands of farmers assembled at various places along the Haryana-Punjab borders were heading to attend 'Dilli Chalo' protest, before being stopped by the Haryana Police.

They had been staging sit-in protests ahead of the Dabwali barrier between Punjab's Bathinda and Haryana's Sirsa districts and at Khanauri border in Sangrur district, awaiting the decision by their leaders to move towards Delhi.

While activists of the Bharti Kisan Union Ekta-Ugrahan and Sidhupur factions had been camping on the border at Khanauri and Moonak, respectively, since Wednesday evening, other farmer unions changed their plans and decided to head for Delhi from other entry points, like Shambhu.

Police and the Rapid Action Force deployed to deal with tension tried to evict farmers gathered since Wednesday evening.

Townspeople along the Punjab-Haryana borders had hard time from heavy security and snapped bus services in the past 24 hours.

Farmers have swarmed roads and other open spaces. Several link roads entering Haryana have also been barricaded.

Unfazed by adversities like the heavy security and barricades—mounds of earth and rocks sit on the highway— a protesting farmer Gurdev Singh told the media at the Shambhu border near Ambala city ""We will break all the barricades if we were not allowed to move ahead."

Farmers said they were ready to face even the bullets.

Section 144 of the CrPC has been imposed alongside turning entire borders into a fortress.

A day earlier, farmers had scuffles with the Haryana Police that failed to stop them, nevertheless being heavily manned, using water cannons.

Scuffle broke out at the Shambhu border when the farmers removed the blockades, heading to Delhi for the rally.

Despite water cannons, the protesting farmers, including men and women -- both young and old -- and school and college students riding tractor-trailers, cars and motorcycles, managed to enter Haryana from Punjab.

Angry farmers threw stones at security forces deployed to control the crowd at the Shambhu border.

They were later joined by thousands of their counterparts from Haryana.

As they reached Kurukshetra district, the local farmers joined them.

As per the police estimates, around 300,000 farmers from both states are set to reach Delhi.

The farmers affiliated to 33 organisations are part of the United Farmers Front, an all-India body of over 470 farmers' unions that will participate in the indefinite protest in the national capital.

Appealing to the agitating farmers, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said: "Will leave politics if there's trouble on MSP (minimum support price)."

He also blamed his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh for "inciting the farmers".

Reacting to his accusations, Amarinder Singh replied on Twitter: "Shocked at your response. It's the farmers who've to be convinced on MSP, not me. You should've tried to talk to them before their 'Dilli Chalo'. And if you think I'm inciting farmers then why are Haryana farmers also marching to Delhi?"

Meanwhile, condemning the use of water cannon and tear gas, former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal said: "Today is Punjab's 26/11. We are witnessing the end of the right to democratic protest. The Akali Dal condemns the Haryana government the Centre for choosing to repress the peaceful farmer movement."

He said the battle for the rights of Punjab farmers cannot be throttled by using water cannons against them.

Supporting the protest by farmers, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the peaceful demonstration was a constitutional right of the farmers.

The Delhi Police has already asked the farmers not to enter Delhi as they don't have permission to protest in the city.

Farmers protesting against the farm laws have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporate entities.

IANS report with edits

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