Farmers from Punjab faced water cannons and dismantled police barriers at the state's border with Haryana as they charged towards the national capital in their protest march against the Centre's farm laws.
By late evening, in rain and biting cold, no less than 5,000 farmers in modified tractors had clogged five major highways leading to the national capital. They are expected to converge at Delhi’s border at night time by when their numbers would have swelled further.
Farmers from six states -- Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Kerala and Punjab – had been waiting for this moment for over two months. They are adamant that they won’t budge until the Centre repeals the three farm laws; thus far they have not responded to Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar's appeal for talks on December 3.
Earlier in the day there was a tense face-off between the Haryana Police and the Punjab protesters on a narrow bridge over the river Ghaggar. As smoke from teargas shells permeated the air, farmers could be seen chucking yellow iron barricades into the river. There was another face-off at Karnal, where farmers had been camping overnight.
Social media was replete with pictures and videos of farmers clashing with forces deployed on the ground. One such incident involving a young farmer from Ambala has gone viral: In the video, he can be seen jumping on top of a police water cannon and turning its tap off. The action was greeted with loud cheers by protestors as security forces watched from a distance.
By evening, massive traffic jams were witnessed on the roads to Delhi, especially at Gurugram -- mostly the result of roadblocks where the Haryana police was checking the vehicles for farmers who were trying to sneak into the national capital. Drone cameras have been deployed at Delhi borders and the Delhi Metro services from the NCR have been suspended.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar hit out at his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh, accusing him of playing "cheap politics" during the pandemic.
Amarinder hit back, questioning if he was indeed inciting the farmers, why farmers from Haryana were joining the protest. ‘‘As for endangering lives during Covid-19, have you forgotten that it was the BJP-led central government that pushed through those farm laws amid the pandemic, uncaring about the impact they'd have on our farmers? Why didn't you speak out then Manohar Lal Khattar ji?" the Punjab chief minister asked.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal also slammed the Haryana government for trying to thwart the farmers march, terming the attempt as “Punjab's 26/11”.