Tear gas shells fired as farmers resume ‘Delhi Chalo’ march; Union minister calls for fifth round of dialogue

Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda said the government is ready for the 5th round of talks to discuss all issues like MSP, crop diversification, stubble issue, and FIR.

BySouth First Desk

Published Feb 21, 2024 | 1:02 PMUpdatedFeb 21, 2024 | 1:02 PM

Farmers protest

The farmers resumed their “Chalo Delhi” march on Wednesday, 21 February, after rejecting the BJP-led Centre’s proposal to procure pulses, maize and cotton for a Minimum Support Price (MSP).

The Haryana police fired tear  gas shells as young farmers marched towards the multi-layered barricades at the Shambhu point bordering Punjab. As the shells went off emitting thick clouds of smoke around 11 am, the farmers were seen running for cover.

The protesting farmers have come prepared with masks, gloves and goggles to the protest site. They were seen distributing masks among themselves ahead of the march.

Farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal on Wednesday said the protesting farmers camping at the border points between Punjab and Haryana would peacefully march to Delhi.

“Our intention is not to disturb peace,” he said, ahead of the farmers’ planned march towards the national capital.

Meanwhile, Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda said the government was ready for the fifth round of talks. “The Government is ready for the 5th round of talks with the farmers to discuss all the issues like MSP, crop diversification, stubble issue, FIR,” he said on Wednesday.

The Delhi-Gurugram witnessed heavy traffic blocks due to the march.

Also Read: Why are farmers from South not part of the MSP protests in the North?

Centre’s ‘delaying tactics’

Accusing the Centre of indulging in “delaying tactics” over the farmers’ demands, Dallewal asked the government to decide in their favour.

He also condemned the Centre for setting up multi-layered barricades at the border points between Punjab and Haryana to prevent them from heading towards Delhi.

“We request that we want to go to Delhi peacefully. The government should remove the barricades and give us permission to march towards Delhi and make arrangements for our sitting in Delhi,” Dallewal told reporters at the Shambhu border point.

He criticised the government for not making a statement on enacting a law on the MSP for crops.

‘Resolve farmers’ demands’

Earlier in the morning, Dallewal said farmers have not received any fresh invite for talks. The president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta Sidhupur was responding to reporters.

Meanwhile, Sarvan Singh Pandher, who heads the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC), said they had requested the Centre with folded hands to resolve the farmers’ demands.

“Discussions took place on each demand and now is the time for taking decisions,” he said, referring to the farmers’ four rounds of talks with a panel of three Union ministers.

“If the Centre comes forward and says it is ready to enact a law on the MSP, then things can move,” Pandher said.

“We should be allowed to march towards Delhi for holding a peaceful protest,” he added.

Dallewal asked the protesting farmers to remain peaceful and not to indulge in violence.

Farmers’ protest: Tight security at Delhi borders, mobile internet services suspended

Use of backhoes

Asked whether the farmers will use excavators or backhoe loaders to force their way to Delhi, farmer leader Pandher said, “We will not use machines.”

If excavators are brought, “we will stop them”, he added.

When told that the Punjab and Haryana High Court has said tractor-trolleys cannot ply on highways, Pandher said tractor-trolleys are taken to fairs and rallies as well.

Those can be used for peaceful agitation, he said.

The Haryana police asked owners of excavators to pull back their machines from the protest site, or else they would be held liable for action.

“For owners and operators of Poclains, JCBs: Please do not provide your equipment to the protestors and withdraw them from the protest site if already done, as they may be used to cause harm to security forces. It is a non-bailable offence and you may be held criminally liable,” said police in a post on X.

“It is reliably learnt that heavy earthmoving equipment, including poclain (digger), JCB, etc, that have been further modified/armour-plated were acquired by protesting farmers and deployed at the border locations where the protesters are camping right now,” the letter written by the Haryana DGP stated.

“These machines are meant to be used by the protesters to damage the barricades thereby posing danger to the police and paramilitary forces deployed on duty and are likely to compromise the security scenario in Haryana,” it said.

Also Read: Iron nails, barbed wires, tear gas, concrete blocks at Delhi borders to stall farmers’ protest

The farmers protest

Thousands of farmers, who began their march to Delhi on 13 February, were stopped at the Punjab-Haryana border, where they clashed with security personnel. The farmers have been camping at the Shambhu and Khanauri border points.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha are spearheading the “Delhi Chalo” march to press the Centre to accept their demands, including a legal guarantee on MSP for crops and farm-loan waiver.

(With PTI inputs.)