As thousands of farmers march towards Delhi for a mega protest, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has rejected the Centre’s proposal to turn a stadium into a temporary jail to confine them. The Arvind Kejriwal government has said the farmers’ demands are genuine and added that every citizen has the right to peaceful protest.
“The demands of the farmers are genuine. Secondly, it is the Constitutional right of every citizen to make a peaceful protest. It is, therefore, incorrect to arrest the farmers,” Delhi home minister Kailash Gehlot has said in a reply to the Centre’s proposal to convert the Rajiv Gandhi stadium in Bawana into a temporary jail to detain the protesting farmers.
“The Central government, in fact, should invite them over for talks and try to find a solution of their genuine problems. Farmers of the country are our ‘annadata’ and treating them in this way by arresting them would be like rubbing salt into their wounds. We cannot be a party to this decision of the Central Government,” the minister added.
The farmers are protesting over several demands, including a law to guarantee a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crops, pension and insurance benefits.
Talks between the farmers and Centre have not made a breakthrough after several rounds of meetings.
The national capital has been turned into a fortress to stop the farmers from entering the city. Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have been sealed. From cement barriers to sandbags to tyre deflators, cops are going all-out to stop the farmers at the border.
The farmers have started from Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab and have said they plan to protest peacefully. The farmers have said they have no links with any political party. Asked about the massive preparation by police to stop their march, they replied they will take a decision once they reach the border.
Arjun Munda, Minister for State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, said the government is committed to the welfare of farmers. “On some issues, we will need to consult the states. We will find a way out. We are always ready to talk and find a solution,” he said.
Delhi Police have clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 in the national capital for a month in view of the protests. Large gatherings and any form of protest marches have been banned. Restrictions have also been imposed on the movement of vehicles across the border.
The preparations suggest that Delhi Police is determined to prevent a repeat of the January 26, 2021 incident when protesting farmers clashed with police on the streets of Delhi. They were then protesting against three farm laws that were later withdrawn.
Incidentally, many of the organisations part of the 2020-2021 protest on Delhi borders are not participating in today’s march. But they have warned that they will hit the streets if any farmer is manhandled.