November 26 is being observed by many across India as a Bharat Bandh, as they demand changes from the Modi government. The protesting groups have asked the government to withdraw all "anti-farmer laws and anti-worker labour codes and stop privatisation of public sector, including the financial sector and stop corporatisation of government-run manufacturing and service entities like railways, ordinance factories, ports etc". At the same time, various farm organisations have taken out protests in the national capital against the Centre's new farm laws.
They had sought permission to protest in the national capital on November 26 and 27, but this had been denied. The police had on Tuesday said that legal action would be taken against the protesting farmers if they come to the city for any gathering amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And as the agitating group advanced, the Delhi-Haryana border was closed, metro services were halted and more.
The police then resorted to using tear gas and water cannons to disperse the group gathered at the border. The Delhi Police had stationed trucks filled with sand at border points and officials had said that in the absense of cooperation with the police, legal action will be initiated.
While many opposition leaders and parties as well as activists have been irked by the official reaction to the protest, most see the use of water cannons as being especially cruel, considering the chilly weather. Others noted, rather ironically, that India marks this day every year as Constitution Day.
"Instead of withdrawing the farm bills (now laws), farmers are being prevented from holding peaceful demonstration, water cannon being used on them. Holding peaceful demonstration is a constitutional right," tweeted Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.
"Instead of listening to the voice of the farmers who are protesting against the laws, that snatched the support price from them, the BJP government uses water cannon to disperse them in cold weather. Everything is being taken away from the farmers while the capitalists are being given banks, airport, railway stations and loan waiver," tweeted Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Thursday.
Political activist and Swaraj India National President Yogendra Yadav who appears to be taking part in the protest took to Twitter reminding that this was Constitution Day. "Barricades put up, water cannons used, illegal arrests made on eve of Constitution Day as farmers were coming to Delhi to ask for their Constitutional Rights. Govt should remember that people are supreme in a democracy and in the end they will prevail," he tweeted.
In a later tweet he had said that he had been detained.
Similar sentiments were expressed by the AAP Twitter handle, which shared visuals from the clash and hit out at the BJP government.
"One of India’s biggest strike is happening today. Meanwhile, farmers unions and their leaders are being detained, arrested and thrashed for trying to march to Delhi. Media is blindfolded to the real story," contended Independent Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani in a tweet.
Many others have also taken a jibe at the BJP-led government for their reaction to the protests.
"After Universities and Bollywood, are farmers now anti-national? Awaiting Hindutva update..." tweeted author and mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik.