NEW DELHI: The agitating farmers on Thursday were in a tizzy with the BJP governments of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh ordering the local authorities to evacuate the squatters from border points.
With the farmers on the back foot, having squandered much of their goodwill following the chaos on Republic Day, the action has moved to Ghazipur in BJP-ruled UP. Turning the heat, the local administration has cut off power and water supply to the farmers, to flush them out. But the protestors have dug their heels, with union leader Rakesh Tikait declaring that he is "ready to face bullets," if need be.
The Tikait camp is also vertically split with the two brothers – Rakesh and Naresh -- divided on continuing with the struggle. While Rakesh is refusing to budge, brother Naresh has wound up the agitation as he says he can't be party to any kind of violence.
Haryana Police is also in full strength near the Singhu border on the periphery of Delhi and has cut off the road link to prevent the movement of farmers from Punjab. Delhi Police is also present in large number, along with the armed riot police, to barricade the entry of farmers in Delhi. The Delhi Police have also deployed a JCB machine to dig up a road at the Singhu border to thwart the movement of tractors.
In a related development, the BJP organised the local residents in the Singhu border area who raised slogans against the farmers and urged them to leave. The farmers were upset since these people were supporting them for the last two months; in fact, they had been enjoying free food from the langar all this while.
In Karnal, where too farmers have been protesting for nearly two months, were told to disband. The local residents have given them a 24-hour ultimatum, saying they were facing inconvenience because of the protests.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has, meanwhile, clamped down on the union leaders by issuing lookout notices for 20 of them. However, no one was taken into custody from the protest sites due to the presence of very large number of farmers who outnumber police personnel at any given time.
Also, a case under sedition and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) has been registered in connection with the violence at Red Fort. The Special Branch will investigate the case.
Earlier in the day, the Ghaziabad District Magistrate gave an ultimatum to the protesting farmers to vacate the border protest site, even as massive deployment of troops was reported, indicating that a crackdown was imminent.
BKU leader Dharmendra Malik charged that BJP MLAs were going around the protest site with their supporters and demanding that the police should evict the protestors. He asserted that they are not going to surrender, adding that the police can arrest them if it wants to. BKU spokesperson Rakesh Tikait too asserted that they won't surrender. "All BJP MLAs should be removed from the protest site. The responsibility lies with the police if violence takes place. I will hang myself if something happens," Tikait asserted. He broke into tears as he spoke to mediapersons.
Meanwhile, two more unions have opted out of the agitation after a meeting with Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
Since the police is mounting pressure at different locations on the borders, the leaders had to rush to their respective sites to ensure the farmers did not take the law in their hands. Owing to poor mobile connectivity, they were forced to abandon a meeting slated for Thursday evening to finalise the programme for peaceful protests on January 30 to mark the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Even their Twitter and Facebook handles blinked because of poor Internet service. The Kisan Ekta Morcha, however, succeeded in Tweeting that #FarmersStandingFirm is their hashtag for the day. "Let's use it, share it & viral it, so that our voices reach the government and actions are taken further," the tweet said.