Traffic Jams At Delhi-Noida Border As Cops Prep For Big Farmers’ Protests

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Cars are stuck in traffic at Delhi Noida border as cops check every vehicle

New Delhi:

Three union ministers – junior Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, junior Home Minister Nityanand Rai, and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal – and a central government delegation have been rushed to Chandigarh to meet representatives of protesting Punjab farmers, sources have told NDTV.

The meeting is expected at 6 pm and will, the government hopes, end with the Punjab farmers calling off a protest – a tractor march – scheduled for Tuesday to highlight demands like a law to guarantee MSP, or minimum support price, for crops, pension for farmers, and crop insurance.

A key demands is the scrapping of police cases against farmers during the 2020 protest.

Meanwhile, a second, unrelated protest is playing out on the Delhi-Noida border, where Uttar Pradesh farmers are demanding increased compensation and developed plots in exchange for local development authorities acquiring their farmlands for infrastructure and other projects.

READ | Punjab Farmers To March To Delhi On Feb 13, Over MSP Demand

The Narendra Modi government’s swift action – to counter the Punjab protest at least – underlines its resolve to contain agitations before they escalate and, crucially, avoid a repeat of violent, nationwide demonstrations in 2020 against its three “black” farm laws.

The ruling BJP – bidding to win a third consecutive term in a Lok Sabha election due in less than three months – will not want a replay of the optics from three years ago – of military-style barricades with cement blocks, shipping containers, and barbed wire fences herding tens of thousands of farmers and their supporters into makeshift townships that sprang up around the Delhi border.

With that in mind, while the Punjab protest is being addressed, those by UP farmers is not.

A large crowd had gathered near Noida’s Mahamaya Flyover at 12.30 pm ahead of a march to the Parliament building in Delhi – about 18 km away. The protest call and the assembly of farmers triggered a security response, with paramilitary forces and riot control vehicles deployed.

Visuals from the flyover showed a group of farmers – some waving the Indian flag and all shouting slogans – penned behind multiple layers of police barricades. Commuters on the Delhi-Noida Expressway said other groups were stopped elsewhere, but this created traffic bottlenecks.

As the hours ticked by, there were reports of scuffles between farmers and the police, and several protesters were detained. Police in Noida have banned large gatherings to stop the farmers from amassing in the township or entering Delhi. They have also issued a traffic advisory.

Visuals from the Chilla border point showed a similarly tense scene, with farmers and police pushing and shoving each other, barricades across the road, and cars being checked before entering Delhi.

A senior police officer said “the possibility of anti-national elements… cannot be ruled out”.

READ | Traffic Jams At Delhi-Noida Border As Cops Prep For Big Farmers’ Protests

In a video message shared by news agency ANI, another senior cop said heavy force had been deployed at Noida-Delhi border crossings and that these “have been sealed for 24 hours”.

Meanwhile, similar measures are in place along the Delhi-Haryana borders, to contain the Punjab farmers should this evening’s outreach by the government fail.

Cement barriers – similar to the ones used during the 2020-21 protest – have been brought in, and sandbags have also been spotted, although security personnel have not been deployed so far.

Haryana Police have, however, issued notices asking farmers not to join any protest; Haryana cops and officials were criticised three years ago after violent clashes left several farmers injured. A video of a government official telling policemen to “crack the heads” of farmers also drew criticism.

READ | “Crack Their Heads”: Haryana Official Caught Coaching Cops About Farmers

A significant point is that the Samyukt Kisan Morcha – the umbrella group – that led the 2020 protest is not part of this agitation. This is led by an apolitical offshoot.

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