Days after barbed wire fences, concrete barricades and makeshift barriers of buses were put in place at Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border – to virtually imprison farmers protesting the agriculture laws – similar measures are being rolled out at Singhu on the Delhi-Haryana border.
Delhi Police are digging up vast stretches of NH-44 to build rows of barbed wires set in concrete, and are setting up strips of sharpened nails and iron rods in the middle of the road – those pieces that have not been dug up – to stop farmers and their tractors from entering the national capital.
The police have also placed massive shipping containers as temporary walls, have stopped all traffic for several kilometres in all direction, and deployed a huge force, including armed officers. They have also stopped media from entering and suspended internet services since last week.
The scene resembles an international border – a line between two hostile forces.
Over the past couple of days this has become the norm along the Delhi border, with barbed wire barriers, strips of iron rods, and concrete walls built to stop farmers from advancing into the city.
The escalation in containment measures comes after last weeks’ tractor rally descended into chaos; a group of protesters veered off the course farmers and police had agreed on, storming the Red Fort complex and clashing with cops at the ITO junction and Nangloi.
That violence – in which a farmer was killed and over 300 hundreds cops injured – was after protesters and tractors burst through police barricades, hours before they were to be allowed in.
Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava pointed to that when asked about the new measures.
“I am surprised that when tractors were used… police were attacked… barricades were broken on January 26, no questions were raised. What did we do now? We have just strengthened barricading so that it’s not broken again,” he said Tuesday.
The authorities have also suspended internet services in Haryana, where the farmers are gathered, although it is functional a few hundred metres away, where the police are amassed.
The farmers have also alleged that water tankers have been blocked off, but have reiterated that these “attacks” will not break their spirit. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha said “… trench-digging… fixing nails… barbed wire fencing… are all part of multiple attacks (by the government)”.
These measures have drawn sharp criticism from those supporting the farmers and the opposition, for whom Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has led the charge.
ये यूपी दिल्ली बार्डर है। pic.twitter.com/IWJRAneoTt
— Umashankar Singh उमाशंकर सिंह (@umashankarsingh) February 1, 2021
Yesterday Mr Gandhi lashed out at the government for “crushing” farmers and urged them to “build bridges, not walls”. Today he warned the government that the farmers would not back down.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been dug in since late November – and more join them every day – in their battle to force the repeal of laws they say will endanger their livelihoods. The centre insists these laws will help farmers and has refused to scrap them. It has, however, offered a temporary stay.
Their protest caught the attention of global celebrities on Monday, when international pop star Rihanna tweeted: “Why aren’t we talking about this?”.
Rihanna’s tweet triggered a wave of support and also a sharp response from the government, which dismissed it as “sensationalist”.