Live: Scuffle at Singhu border between locals, farmers; police use force to control

Baldev Singh
·5-min read

Clashes broke out between agitating farmers and a large group of people claiming to be locals at the Singhu border today forcing the police to use tear gas and lathi-charge to control the situation and disperse the crowd.

The locals demanded that farmers vacate the Singhu border protest site as they had ‘insulted’ the national flag during their tractor parade on Republic Day. Armed with sticks, the group of locals reached the site and asked the farmers to leave while raising slogans against them. Both sides also pelted stones at each other.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief, who had earlier agreed to clear the Ghazipur protest site, will today hold a mahapanchayat in stronghold Muzaffarnagar to decide the future course of action after another turning point in over two-month-long farmers’ agitation last night.

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said the protesting farmers will not move from Ghazipur site. “We will not move from here. We will commit suicide but won’t end protest until the farm bills are repealed,” he said, adding that the administration had removed basic facilities including water and electricity supply. "We'll get water from our villages."

On Thursday night, the Uttar Pradesh government deployed additional forces and asked farmers to vacate the protest site. However, Rakesh Tikait's tears became the elixir to revive a thinning protest. As Rakesh Tikait sobbed on national television, he told reporters that he would rather commit suicide than leave.

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Three days after the events of Republic Day saw the farmers' tractor rally against Centre's farm laws turn violent, tensions are still brewing high in Delhi. As numbers have dwindled at protest sites across borders adjoining Delhi, the Ghaziabad and Uttar Pradesh government have asked farmers to vacate the areas.

While the Ghaziabad administration has given an ultimatum to protesting farmers to vacate UP Gate by Thursday midnight, failing which they would be removed, the UP government has ordered all its DMs and SSPs to ensure the end of all farmers’ protests in the state. The central government has also extended the deployment period of four companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF) till February 4 to maintain law and order situation in Ghaziabad in view of the protests. Their deployment was till January 28.

On Thursday, even as the police asked farmers to vacate the protest sites, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Naresh Tikait declared an end to the farmers' protest at Ghazipur. "The dharna at the Ghazipur (border) will end today," he said in Muzaffarnagar.

However, his brother and BKU spokesperson, Rakesh Tikait, said he will continue the sit-in protest at Ghazipur border.

A defiant Rakesh Tikait, however, has refused to surrender to the police or to vacate the protest site. He has now gone on a hunger strike and said he will drink only water from his own village. He also threatened that ‘more people will come from villages if needed’.

The divide among farmer unions following the shameful Republic Day violence, however, is widening. On Thursday, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lok Shakti) and the Kisan Mahapanchayat withdrew from the protests.

Meanwhile, the UP Police has given the protestors an ultimatum to clear the Ghazipur protest site. After the ultimatum, several farmers have started vacating the site.

Meanwhile, protests have erupted at the Singhu border in Delhi where people, claiming to be locals, have asked protesting farmers to vacate the highway. They are raising slogans against the farmers for the violence in Delhi and praising Delhi and UP Police at the Ghazipur border protest site.

The protest by the locals comes a couple of days after armed vandals, disguised as farmers, wreaked havoc in Delhi, attacking cops, damaging public property, storming the Red Fort and desecrating the solemn occasion of Republic Day, during the violent tractor rally to press their demand for the repeal of the Centre's contentious farm laws.

Earlier, 16 Opposition parties will boycott the President’s address to Parliament on January 29 before the start of the Budget session. Leaders of 16 opposition political parties released a joint statement on Thursday announcing their boycott, reiterating their demand for the repeal of the three farm laws, and showing their solidarity with the protesting farmers.

The Opposition leaders, from parties, including the Congress, NCP, DMK, TMC, Shiv Sena, Samajwadi Party, RJD, CPI, CPI(M) and PDP, said the legislations were ‘an assault on the rights of the States and violate the federal spirit of the Constitution’.

The opposition leaders said that the laws were ‘brought without any consultations’, ‘lacked national consensus’, and ‘parliamentary scrutiny was bypassed’.

Meanwhile, a day after 25 FIRs were registered in connection with the Republic Day violence, the Delhi Police has issued a look-out notice against farmer leaders and asked them surrender their passports.

Earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday met police personnel injured in the Red Fort violence when rioting farmers broke barricades, climbed the ramparts of the monument and hoisted a religious flag.

Over 300 cops were injured in the incident and as many as 25 FIRs were filed.

The Delhi Police has also named actor Deep Sidhu and gangster-turned-social activist Lakha Sidhana in an FIR in connection with the Red Fort violence.

The violent turn of events after two months of farmers' agitation has exposed the movement, even as unions and leaders continue to disassociate themselves from the faction that stormed the Red Fort.

Following the violence, two farmer unions withdrew from the protests on Wednesday. The Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu), which had publicly denounced the Republic Day violence, pulled out of the ongoing protests against the three contentious farm laws that the farmers claim will benefit only big corporates and not growers.