Farmers Protest: Farmers organised Black Friday March, leaders detained

News Desk: Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Lok Sabha MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal and around a dozen other leaders were detained by Delhi Police this afternoon, as they alleged authorities used “force” to stop a ‘black Friday march’ by the party to mark one year of protests against the centre’s farm laws.

Mr Badal and the others were detained for violating Section 144 – orders banning large gatherings – and taken to the Parliament Street Police Station. As they were detained Sukhbir Badal told Akali Dal workers and other protesters to disperse peacefully.

“We were here to protest… Delhi Police used force to stop us. Police sealed the borders… our workers were lathi charged. Kejriwal government gave orders that we cannot gather at a gurudwara… central government also stopped us. This is undemocratic” Ms Badal said.

“We had clearly said this will be a peaceful protest,” she added.

Earlier angry farmers and Akali Dal workers massed at Delhi’s borders, where police put up barricades, closed major roads and shut down two metro stations to stop protesters from entering.

A video tweeted by Harsimrat Kaur Badal – who resigned as a union minister, and whose party quit the BJP-led NDA, over the farm laws – showed chaotic scenes from the Gurdwara Rakabganj Sahib in central Delhi, where party workers tried to push past police barricades to start their protest march.

“Strongly condemn Delhi Police for sealing entry points to the national capital and detaining Akali Dal workers reaching Gurdwara Rakabganj Sahib. Receiving phone calls and videos (showing how) police (are) trying to foil protest march… It is an undeclared emergency” Ms Badal declared.

Visuals from other protest sites showed hundreds of people gathered to protest against the contentious farm laws, with many carrying banners and placards demanding their repeal.

The Akali Dal Twitter handle lashed out at an “arrogant” central government and said the party was “proud to be the party of farmers”. “We will keep raising our voice against the black laws”

Delhi Traffic Police had tweeted details of multiple road closures and diversions that affected traffic in the city, particularly at key business areas like ITO and around the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.

Traffic coming from Gurgaon was also affected with road closures in the Dhaula Kuan area.

Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal had this week called on party workers to march the short distance from the gurdwara to Parliament House to protest against the centre’s “anti-farmer” legislations.

Police, however, had yesterday issued a notice to Mr Badal and Akali Dal spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema prohibiting the protest march. The authorities cited rules in force during the Covid pandemic to say that large political gatherings would not be allowed.

Farmers and opposition parties have been protesting the centre’s farm laws since November last year. Multiple rounds of talks have been held by the centre, but the deadlock remains.

The farmers say the three laws will rob them of guaranteed prices, affect the existing mandi system, and leave smaller and marginal agriculturists at the mercy of corporate interests.

The government insists the laws will be beneficial in the long term and, that while it is ready to listen to amendments, it will not scrap the laws – something the farmers have also demanded.

The Akali Dal – once one of the ruling BJP’s oldest allies – initially supported the farm laws before realising the extent of discontent against them. The party quit the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in September last year, a week after Harsimrat Badal resigned as a union minister.

Today’s protests come as the centre kickstarts a 20-day extravaganza to celebrate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 71st birthday, including an attempt to set a single-day Covid vaccination record.