Stir against agri laws regains momentum after Tikait mobilises support from UP, Punjab

GHAZIABAD/NEW DELHI: The agitation against the farm laws appeared to regain momentum on Saturday after rallying support from the agricultural community of the crucial western Uttar Pradesh region, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed that his government’s proposal to protesting farmers stands and it is a “phone call away” for talks.

Farmer leaders held a day-long fast on Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary at the protest sites on the borders of the national capital including Ghazipur, on the Delhi-Meerut highway, that has now become the new focal point of the stir with more protesters converging there, days after the crowds had waned following the violence at the tractor rally on January 26.

Agitating union leaders claimed that protesters were also heading back to Singhu and Tikri borders from Punjab and Haryana, The administration remained on high alert with Internet services temporarily suspended at the Singhu, Ghazipur, and Tikri borders of the national capital, as well as in the adjoining areas.

Haryana has also suspended mobile internet services in 17 districts till Sunday evening.

Security personnel, including anti-riot police and paramilitary forces, were deployed in strength.

Multiple layers of barricades including concrete blocks had been put at the protest sites.

Wearing garlands, the farmer leaders, who had called for observing ‘Sadbhavana Diwas’ (Harmony Day) on Saturday after the immense outrage over violence by protesters during their Republic Day tractor rally, sat on the dais during the fast.

Addressing the protesters in Ghazipur, Bharatiya Kisan Union Rakesh Tikait, whose emotional appeal had galvanised farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to flock to the protest site, said they have fought this battle for over two months now and “won’t relent or retreat”.

“The movement was and is strong,” BKU’s Meerut Zone president Pawan Khatana said, a day after tens of thousands of farmers from politically sensitive western Uttar Pradesh had gathered in Muzaffarnagar to participate in a mahapanchayat in a massive outpouring of support for the agitation after Tikait broke down following administration’s attempt to remove the protesters on Thursday night.

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