10-hr 'Bharat Bandh' by farmers kicks up political row

10-hour 'Bharat Bandh' by farmers kicks up political row

Meanwhile, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait thanked people for the "nationwide success of the peaceful Bharat Bandh"

Farmers block railway tracks as part of protests against farm reforms during 'Bharat Bandh' protests, at Sonipat Railway Station, Haryana, Monday. Credit: PTI Photo

The "Bharat Bandh" called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farm unions on Monday, seeking the repeal of the three contentious farm laws, threw road and railway traffic out of gear in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana while evoking mixed and lukewarm responses in different other places.

The 10-hour long protest during which farmers blocked national highways and squatted on railway tracks, affecting the movement of more than two dozen trains including Shatabdi kicked up a political row between the ruling BJP and the Opposition.

“In the war of right and wrong, you cannot afford to be neutral!! We urge every Congress worker to fight with all their might against the three Unconstitutional Black Laws!!" Punjab state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu tweeted.

Two Opposition Chief Ministers -- Charanjit Singh Channi of Congress-ruled Punjab and Arvind Kejriwal of AAP-ruled Delhi said the demands of farmers were legitimate and asked the Centre to repeal the farm laws.

"Farmers' non-violent satyagraha is resolute even today, but the exploitative government does not like this and that's why it is Bharat Bandh today," former Congress President Rahul Gandhi said.

Also read: OPINION | Revisit farm laws, build trust

Taking it further, his party colleague, Pawan Khera told Prime Minister Narendra Modi, "You cannot be arrogant when you are the prime minister. You have to listen to your country and when 60 per cent of your country speaks, please speak to them."

While Khera called for the need to "stand unitedly with the farmers otherwise the future of our nation is dark,", Union Minister from BJP Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi alleged that the few political parties have "hijacked" the farmer protest doing the "criminal conspiracy" of "fanning" the protest for their "political gains".

Reminding the Prime Minister of his remarks in January that the government is still a phone call away and is ready to talk to farmers any moment to resolve the politics, Congress took a dig saying, "the farmers are still waiting for that phone call."

BJP dismissed the charge, claiming the Modi government has repeatedly reached out to farmer unions and had also offered a moratorium on the implementation of the three laws -- the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020, which were passed by Parliament in September last year.

Also read: Bharat Bandh against farm laws disrupts lives in pockets, highway blockades and train 'rokos' in places

The attempts to break the logjam between the government and protesting farmer unions have failed even after 11 rounds of talks and there has been a communication break between the government and the farmers since January 26 after tractor rally violence.

Meanwhile, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait thanked people for the "nationwide success of the peaceful Bharat Bandh" and said it was a "slap" on the face of those, who described the farmer agitation as an event limited to just three states.

"Thousands of farmers expressed their anger coming out in streets in the whole country, which was supported by traders, labourers, employees and trade unions. Political parties also supported the Bandh. The government should not live under the misconception that the farmers will return home empty-handed. Farmers are unflinching on their resolve to get the contentious farm laws withdrawn," Tikait said. Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said the bandh was "extraordinarily successful".

A statement of Samyukta Kisan Morcha said claimed that the bandh was successful at hundreds of locations from Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Pondicherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal.

While the blockade of Delhi-Haryana borders led to a standstill for hours during peak traffic hours, more than two dozen inbound and outbound trains passing through Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab -- Delhi-Amritsar Shan-e-Punjab, New Delhi-Moga Express, Old Delhi-Pathankot Express, Vande Bharat Express from New Delhi to Katra, and Amritsar Shatabdi--- were affected due to blockades and sit-ins at 20 major railway stations.

In Punjab, there was also a total shutdown with vehicles off the roads and commercial establishments shut. The national highways in Amritsar, Rupnagar, Jalandhar, Pathankot, Sangrur, Mohali, Ludhiana, Ferozepur, Bathinda, were blocked by the protesters. The bandh impact was felt in BJP-ruled Haryana as well, as protesting farmers blocked the national highways in Sirsa, Fatehabad, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Hisar, Charkhi Dadri, Karnal, Kaithal, Rohtak, Jhajjar and Panchkula districts.

The SKM had exempted all emergency establishments and essential services, including hospitals, medical stores, relief-and-rescue work and people attending to personal emergencies from the bandh call. Keeping the past protest in mind, the Delhi police kept the roads around the historic Red Fort as well as the dual carriageway at the Ghazipur border out of bounds for traffic.

Check out latest videos from DH:

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox