A nationwide strike by farm organisations to protest new laws liberalising agricultural markets blocked roads and railway tracks in eastern and western states. At least 20 regional and national Opposition parties backed the call for the strike. Farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been at the vanguard of the agitation since last month, and have set up protest camps in and around the capital.
Here are 10 things to know about the Bharat Bandh protest:
Amit Shah to meet farmers this evening
Home Minister Amit Shah called farmer leaders for a meeting in Delhi late evening to discuss reforms in India’s agriculture market that have sparked protests leading to nationwide shutdown on Tuesday. “There is no midway. We will demand just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from Home Minister Amit Shah at today’s meeting,” farmer leader Rudru Singh Mansa said at a press conference at the Singhu border near Delhi.
Kejriwal vs Delhi Police
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said the police put him under ‘house arrest’ after he met farmers at the Singhu border. The Delhi Police called the allegations ‘baseless, unfounded’ and said that were no restriction on Kejriwal.
Highways blocked in UP, Punjab
Protesters blocked the highway linking Ghaziabad (in Uttar Pradesh) and Delhi as hundreds of police tried to block. Another group of protesters blocked the highway near Singhu. National Highway 24 near Gazipur was blocked, too. Punjab farmers blocked the Chandigarh highway to Mohali.
Farmers and their supporters take part in a tractor rally during a protest to support the nationwide strike, called by farmer unions to press for repeal of the Centres Agri laws, in Amritsar, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. (PTI Photo)
BJP-ruled states unaffected
BJP-ruled states were largely unaffected. In Gujarat, most shops, markets, banks and government offices worked through the day. In Goa, markets were open and public transport ran smoothly. Haryana, where an alliance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Jannayak Janta Party is in power, trade unions affiliated to the opposition Congress party backed the bandh and protested on national highways.
In BJP-ruled Assam, shops and markets were largely open while in several semi-urban and rural parts establishments remained closed, according to IANS. Tripura, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh were unaffected in the Bharat Bandh.
Bengal and Northeast
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said she doesn’t support the bandh but her All India Trinamool Congress party held protests and demonstrations. Left Front parties took out rallies and blocked the Jadavpur Railway station. Left and Congress workers blocked railway tracks in North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and other districts disrupting suburban trains, PTI reported.
The Trinamool’s farmers and agricultural workers wing began a three-day sit-in protest in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue in central Kolkata this afternoon.
In northeast India, the bandh evoked partial response. Banking across the northeastern region were partially hit as some employees joined the shutdown, according to IANS report. Flights and trains remained unaffected.
South India sees protests
The ruling Telangana Rastriya Samiti and opposition parties supported the Bharat Bandh, staging protests in Hitech City in Hyderabad and blocking some highways for a brief while.
In Tamil Nadu, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) kept out of the bandh but cab and auto unions extended their support. More than a thousand workers belonging to Left parties and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam were detained by the police for blocking roads in districts, according to The Hindu.
Congress-ruled Puducherry backed the Bharat Bandh with Chief Minister V Narayanasamy marching along with farmers’ associations to protest against recently enacted reforms in India’s agriculture market that have sparked protests.
Kerala’s Left government said it would move the Supreme Court against the three farm laws this week. A farmer’s union and the Congress had “exempted” the state from the shutdown because of local body elections in eight districts.
In BJP-ruled Karnataka, a coalition of a farmer, labour and Dalit groups blocked a road in Bengaluru, reported the Indian Express.
Shops in Maharashtra open
The Maha Vikas Aghadi, the alliance which governs Maharashtra, backed the bandh. Mumbai’s biggest agricultural market in Vashi was shut but the megacity ran smoothly.
Delhi shops open, roads partially blocked
Shopkeepers in Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar were open but wore black armbands to show solidarity to the farmers’ protest. AAP volunteers blocked an arterial road in central Delhi while Congress workers staged a protest at Income Tax Office , where Delhi Police headquarters are located.
Examinations of Osmania University in Hyderabad scheduled Tuesday were deferred. Examinations scheduled from December 9 will be held as per schedule, announced the Controller of Exams, Osmania University.
The ICAI CA exams 2020 scheduled for today was deferred too due to Bharat Bandh. It has been rescheduled for December 13.
Opposition leaders to meet President
Opposition party leaders will meet President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday at 5 pm and ask him to tell the government to withdraw the laws. The Opposition delegation will include Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar and others, said CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury as quoted by ANI.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said earlier Tuesday Opposition parties were “hypocritical” in asking for a rollback of the farm reforms as they had pushed for them during their terms in power.