Bharat Bandh: A year on, farmers' stir stays strong

Bharat Bandh: A year on, farmers' stir stays strong

Protesters young and old have stood at the borders of Delhi over the last 10 months, weathering the region's harsh winter and the devastating second Covid wave

Farmers raise slogans as they block the Jalandhar-Delhi National Highway during their 'Bharat Bandh'. Credit: PTI Photo

A year ago this time, farmers and farmer organisations across the country spurred independent India's largest protest(s) after the passage of the three contentious farm laws in Parliament.

Led by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha and Bharatiya Kisan Union, farmers and their allies have said they will continue to protest the new legislatures till they are repealed.

Protesters young and old have stood at the borders of Delhi over the last 10 months, weathering the region's harsh winter and the devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some hundreds of thousands of farmers, including women and children, descended on the national capital as part of the 'Dilli Challo' movement on November 25 last year.

The farmers have since held a number of rallies and protests against the three farm laws, including the tractor rally on January 7, the infamous January 26 tractor parade and the relatively smaller protest held at Jantar Mantar during the monsoon session of Parliament last month.

However, relations between the Centre and farm unions have thawed since the January 26 violence in the national capital, with many BJP politicians terming farmers from anti-nationals to terrorists.

Also Read | Ready to agitate for 10 years, but won't allow farm laws to be implemented: Rakesh Tikait

The tractor parade into Delhi on Republic Day, which was supposed to be a peaceful affair, turned violent after a group of protesters broke police barricades at the Sighu and Tikri border. Some protesters were also said to have pelted stones at policemen. They also vandalised a DTC bus on the way to Red Fort, where actor-activist Deep Sidhu and a few others scaled up the ramparts and hosted a Sikh flag alongside the tricolour.

Delhi Police and other security forces subsequently dispersed the protesters with teargas and lathi-charge. 37 farm leaders were named in an FIR filed by Delhi Police the next day and several hundred individuals were detained, including Deep Sidhu and Laksha Sidhana — both of whom are now out on bail.

Security around the Delhi border was beefed up further, with cops placing multiple concrete slabs and sheets of nails to prevent a repeat of the Republic Day violence. 

Farm unions and the Union government, who last held a dialogue on January 22 — their 11th meeting — have yet to meet face-to-face since.

Barring Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait's Mahapanchayats across Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and a few other states, protests against the three farm laws were far and few between.

The farmers' protest returned to the limelight in July when they held a 'Kisan Sansad' at Jantar Mantar. The stir that began on July 22 witnessed the attendance of hundreds of farmers apart from celebrities and Opposition leaders.

Another protest in Karnal earlier this month took an ugly turn after an IAS officer was seen instructing cops to crack protesting farmers' heads open.

Monday's Bharat Bandh is the largest protest since the second wave of the pandemic, which Tikait has already termed as 'successful.'

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