As thousands of farmers have started entering the national capital on Friday from the Tikri border following permission by Delhi Police to hold peaceful protests at the city's Burari ground, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has appealed the farmers to "leave the agitation in view of COVID-19 and winter".
Tomar said, "The government has always been ready to discuss issues with farmers. We have invited farmers' organizations for another round of talks on 3rd December."
For the uninitiated, the farmers are protesting against the Centre's new farm laws fearing that they would lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price mechanism, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporates.
Hundreds of western Uttar Pradesh farmers on Friday headed to the national capital in response to a 'Delhi Chalo' call to protest against the three central farm laws.
On a Bharatiya Kisan Union call to join the protest in Delhi, the farmers belonging to Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Gautam Buddh Nagar and other western UP districts reached the Eastern Peripheral Expressway in Greater Noida on Friday afternoon, when they were stopped by the police.
Shortly later, they left the Peripheral Expressway as the announcement came that the protestors have been allowed to march to Delhi.
The concession came after hours of a standoff that saw police using teargas shells, water cannons and multi-layer barriers to block the protesters and the farmers pelting stones and breaking barricades in some places in their determination to push through.
At the Tikri border, farmers were escorted by police personnel amid tight security around 3 pm and taken towards the Nirankari Ground, one of the biggest in the city.
Earlier in the day, clashes broke out at multiple places and Delhi's borders resembled a virtual battle zone with restless crowds of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, milling around and a sea of police personnel keeping them at bay. Drones circled the air and plumes of smoke from teargas shells could be seen from far.
Beyond the border points, the tension spilled over on highways where groups of farmers squatted on the road, and stood in trucks and tractors, waiting impatiently to make their way into the national capital.
The farmers are demanding the repeal of the new farm laws, which, they said, should be replaced with another set of legislations framed after wider consultation with the stakeholders. They also want a guarantee on minimum support prices.
(With agency inputs)