LUCKNOW: Amid heavy security deployment, farmers groups led by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) held sit-in protests across several districts of western Uttar Pradesh blocking highways in support of the farmers of Haryana and Punjab who marched towards New Delhi on Friday against the new farm laws passed by the central government in the last session of Parliament.
The BKU activists, led by Rakesh Singh Tikait, and farmers blocked the Yamuna Expressway by squatting on the road which led to a massive traffic jam on Friday. A wedding procession was stuck in the jam for several hours. The blockade prevented traffic movement from Agra to Mathura.
Similarly, other western UP districts including Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Bijnor, Hapur, Shamli, Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad, Noida, Moradabad and Saharanpur also witnessed sit-in protests by the farmers who blocked the highways, especially the main Delhi-Dehradun National Highway disrupting traffic flow at Nawla Kothi in Muzaffarnagar district. In Baghpat, BKU activists blocked traffic on the Sonipat Highway using tractors and raised slogans against the new farm laws. Sit-ins were also observed by farmers in the Bundelkhand districts of Lalitpur and Jalaun.
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The farmers are demanding the repeal of the new agri-reforms law, which they claimed would lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system in the country.
The group of farmers also made an attempt to block the traffic near Sultanpur in central UP but were dispersed by the police. Due to heavy deployment of police personnel, however, the situation remained under control as the administrative machinery was already on alert after a call for holding the protests was given by the BKU on Thursday.
BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said, "Farmers in Uttar Pradesh are fully supporting their counterparts in Punjab and Haryana and our protests will continue." He also gave a call to march to Delhi on Saturday.
In fact, the decision to lend support to the Punjab and Haryana farmers was taken by the BKU at an emergency mahapanchayat held in Muzaffarnagar at the residence of Rakesh Tikait on Thursday. At the meeting, it was decided that the BKU would lay indefinite siege to national highways in the region.
Urging the government to roll back the farm laws and make the MSP mandatory by law, Tikait said that if the Prime Minister was assuring that the minimum support price would continue, why couldn’t it be included in the law. “The MSP should be applicable across the country. The government will have to ensure that the crops are not purchased at a lower price than the MSP set by the government,” he said adding that if it happened, purchaser should be booked.
“We also demand that the farmers jailed during the protests should be freed immediately. The government should lend an ear to all our demands and address them soon. Till that happens, we will continue our stir,” said Tikait. Dharmendra Malik, the BKU spokesperson, said this time farmers would not go home until the government rolled back the unjust laws.
However, as the Delhi-Haridwar stretch on the Delhi-Dehradun Highway was shut due to the protest, long queues of vehicles were witnessed. Even a number of marriage processions had to wait for hours to reach their destinations.
The government spokesman said that efforts were being made to clear the highways and restore traffic movement.
Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress came out in support of agitating farmers by taking a jibe at the Modi government. While SP chief Akhilesh Yadav claimed that the Centre was ignoring the interests of farmers, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra condemned the police action on protesting farmers. “The government is resorting to every tactic to stop the protesting farmers but it is not able to assure them that MSP is their right and that it is written in the new laws,” she tweeted.