“Is police here to protect us or forcibly evict us?” ask farmers at Ghazipur border

Farmers’ movement regroups in strength hours after setback

Politics

January 29, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

“Is police here to protect us or forcibly evict us?” ask farmers at Ghazipur border

Police in anti-riot gear on Thursday night at Ghazipur border (MIG photos/Aman Kanojiya)

The mood at Ghazipur border changed within hours on Thursday. Initially, farmers protesting there were worried and scared about their fate following orders by local administration to vacate the site. However, by late night, as thousands of farmers joined in from across Uttar Pradesh, the spirit is at an all-time high.

A day after the chaos at Red Fort and ITO when protesting farmers clashed with police, the mood was tense at various protest sites on the borders of Delhi. There was confusion as two minor groups of farmers had decided to withdraw from the protest and the Uttar Pradesh government got into the act by cutting off water and power supply to Ghazipur border where tens of thousands of farmers had been protesting.

By next morning, there were reports of tensions on all the protest sites. From Singhu, there were reports that some of the ‘locals’ wanted the farmers gone, as it was disrupting their lives. At Tikri border too Delhi Police put up barricades to block the Rohtak-Delhi highway and beefed up security in the area.

However, the situation was extremely tense at Ghazipur border as  police in anti-riot gear started spreading out at the site. Several entries to the area were blocked and Rapid Action Force had taken charge over there.

By Thursday afternoon, reports came that UP’s Ghaziabad district administration had issued orders for protesting farmers to vacate the site by the same night. There was tension and fear palpable in the air at Ghazipur as a few farmers, demoralised by the violence on R-Day, had decided to leave even before the order was received from the administration. Of the many others staying put, there were hardly any willing to talk to the media about their future plans, leaving the decisions for their leaders to take.

A protesting farmer at Ghazipur border (MIG photos)

But within hours, their resolve to continue the protest was stronger than ever. All it took was an emotionally charged-up speech by their leader Rakesh Tikait saying that he would rather be dead than leave the protest site and committing to keep the protest alive. As his emotional video became viral more farmers from several other areas started arriving at Ghazipur border.

“We will not vacate the protest site and we will not court arrest… I know what will happen to me and my supporters after we are arrested… We will get shot here if need be, and we shall die before we leave… I will hang myself… If anything goes wrong, the police and administration will be responsible… I have never said anything against BJP. I have respected them… We are ready for your lathis and bullets,” Tikait told supporters.

At around 10 pm on Thursday night, protesting farmers were seen sitting in small groups and discussing about their future course of action. Some of the farmers were seen sleeping in the open as tents were few in number.

With fewer tents at the site, farmers are now forced to sleep in the open (MIG photos)

“We have been told that some BJP party members came here and threatened the farmers here. Our leader Rakesh Tikait has said that we will no longer court arrest because if he doesn’t stay, we don’t know how will they treat the farmers here at Ghazipur border. Now even if the government shoots at us, we are okay, but we are not moving from here, till the government repeals the three farm laws. Whatever, the government has to do let it do, we will continue to sit here peacefully,” Bijan Singh Rathod, a farmer from Anuppur district in Madhya Pradesh, protesting at Ghazipur tells Media India Group.

Seeing the fresh reinforcements of police that had been deployed earlier in the evening, the farmers said they did not why they were there. “We don’ know if the police here is for our security or is here to evict us. That only they would know,” says Rathod.

The farmers condemn the Red Fort chaos but say that it was not done by the farmers but by BJP goons only. “The Red Fort violence was wrong and this was a conspiracy by the Modi government. The people who got up on the Red Fort and hoisted the religious flag were people of the BJP party itself. Now the blame has been shifted on the farmers. But we would like to say that farmers do not get involved in any kind of violence and worship non-violence,” adds Rathod.

By midnight, the farmers began to breathe easy as the police began withdrawing and news emerged of thousands of farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana headed towards Ghazipur to reinforce the movement and dispel any fears that the violence on Republic Day had dealt a mortal blow to the movement. The strength at Ghazipur continued to mount throughout on Friday with fresh arrivals of tractors and trolleys carrying hundreds of farmers.

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