New Delhi: Thousands of farmers from across the country on Thursday converged at Delhi’s Ramlila Ground beginning a two-day protest, backed by the Left, to press for their demands including debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce.
On Friday, farmers from states including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, will march to the Parliament Street.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), which has organised the Kisan Mukti March, has not yet been given the required permission by Delhi Police to hold the rally.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader and Member of Parliament from Hatkanangle in Kolhapur (Maharashtra) Raju Shetti said if permission is not granted for the rally, the working committee of the AIKSCC would decide the next course of action.
“We were told that our rally would affect traffic in the city. But what happens when traffic is stopped for hours during the Prime minister’s movemnet? Can’t they spare even one hour for farmers who are fighting for their rights?” Shetti told IANS.
Over 3,500 police personnel will be deployed on Friday when the farmers will begin their march from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street, a high security zone, police said.
Many political leaders, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, have confirmed their participation in the rally, he said.
National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, Trinamool Congress’ Dinesh Trivedi, Loktantrik Janata Dal’s Sharad Yadav are among the other leaders who will address the protesting farmers on Friday.
“(Former Prime Minister) H.D. Deve Gowda will also join us,” Shetti said.
On Thursday, many of the farmers came in trains and other packed into buses and other modes of transport.
Those from Delhi and nearby Punjab and Haryana started assembling around 10.30 am, their leaders said. Kamla, a functionary of the All India Kisan Sabha’s Delhi unit, said farmers from nearby areas converged at Majnu Ka Tila on the outskirts of Delhi from where they marched in groups to Ramlila Maidan.
About 1,200 members of the National South Indian River Interlinking Agriculturalists Association reached the national capital in the early hours of Thursday carrying skulls of two of their colleagues who had committed suicide, their leader P Ayyakannu claimed.
The group from Tamil Nadu threatened to march naked if they are not allowed to go to Parliament on Friday. Last year, the group staged protests at Jantar Mantar with the skulls of eight farmers who killed themselves owing to farm losses. The two-day rally will be one of the largest congregations of farmers in Delhi, the AIKSCC has claimed.
At Ramlila Maidan, it was a sea of red as farmers wearing caps and carrying flags gathered, with some of them arriving here after completing a long journey of as long as 36 hours. The Maidan resonated with slogans of ‘Ayodhya nahi, Karzi maaf chahiye (We don’t need Ayodhya but debt waiver’.
All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader Atul Anjaan said Delhi Jal Board will provide them water tanks and AAP local MLAs will give food packets.
Five Gurdwaras in the Delhi region have extended their help to the farmers. Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, Sisganj Sahib, Rakabganj, Bap Sahib and Manju Ka Tila will provide accommodation to farmers for the night, he said.
However, majority of the farmers will stay at Ramlila Maidan in tents, he said.
Students from various universities turned out in large numbers to lend support to the farmers. The protest also saw participation of a number of women farmers who travelled from various parts of the country.
Anjaan said that AAP volunteers have put up tents in large numbers at Anand Vihar station for farmers who arrived there and are also providing snacks and water to them. Some students from Delhi University have also arrived at the maidan and are helping farmers out.
Vounteers, including doctors, lawyers, professors and artists, all came out in large numbers to help. Around 600-700 volunteers of a solidarity group Nation For Farmers marched with the farmers from four assembly points -Bijwasan, Majnu Ka Tila, Nizamuddin and Anand Vihar towards Ramlila Maidan.
Under their campaign, Dilli Chalo, they mobilised support for the march. A cultural programme was held at Ramlila Ground in the evening.
The AIKSCC was formed under the aegis of All India Kisan Sabha and other Left affiliated farmers’ bodies in June 2017, after protests by farmers in states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh for debt relief and remunerative prices.
According to a senior police officer, special arrangements have been made in central and New Delhi police districts.
Support for the farmers poured in with activists taking to Twitter to ask the general public to join the march.
“Women farmers greet us this morning from Bijwasan as they are all set to embark on #KisanMuktiMarch. Join us even if you are not a farmer. Join the hands that toil to feed us. Jai Kisan!,” tweeted political activist and former AAP leader Yogendra Yadav.
Yadav also said they are giving a letter of apology to those who are being inconvenienced due to the march because they do not want to disturb people.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan also tweeted in solidarity with farmers.”Over 3L farmers have committed suicide in India in last 15 yrs, due to successive govts betraying them. Tomorrow 1 lakh farmers from across the country are marching to Delhi to ask for fair prices & freedom from debt. Let’s stand in solidarity with them,” he said.
Jamun Thakur, a farmer from Parri village of Bihar’s Darbhanga district, said he arrived in the city at 8 am Thursday with over 2,000 farmers mostly associated with AIKS. They started their journey on the Bihar Samprakranti Express on Wednesday morning.
The Communist Party of India said it supported the farmers’ agitation and urged the entire country to stand up in solidarity with the community alleging that the government has been “insensitive” to their demands.
(With PTI inputs)