As the night drew on, the protesters put their mattresses on the roads itself and proceeded to sleep, while policemen maintained vigil.
As a preventive measure, all schools and colleges in Ghaziabad will remain closed on Wednesday, officials said. The order was issued by District Magistrate Ritu Maheshwari.
While the Opposition blamed the Modi government for what they called a “brutal police action” against farmers on way to Rajghat on Gandhi Jayanti for a peaceful protest, the police said it used “minimal force” to disperse the crowd and to maintain law and order in the national capital.
The protesters, many of whom said they have come from as far as Haridwar over 200 kms away after a nine-day long march, appeared ready to stay put at the border with hundreds of tractors and trolleys with food, water, mattresses and even generators parked alongside the roads for over a kilometre of distance.
The protesters, which included women and elderly men as well, tried jumping barricades from time to time, prompting the police to use water cannons and tear-gas shells, and kept raising slogans against the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Delhi Police deployed over 3,000 personnel to stop the protesters from crossing over to the national capital and check any violence, even as traffic situation turned chaotic in various border areas.
As leaders from opposition parties accused the government of adopting an “anti-farmer” stand by stopping the protesters, the central government went into a huddle to find out ways and an emergency meeting was called under chairmanship of Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Union Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was rushed to meet the protesting farmers. While some farmer groups agreed to consider the assurances given by the government, others said they were not “satisfied” and decided to continue with their protest, call for which has been given by Naresh Tikait-led Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) demanding loan waiver, higher support price and steps to safeguard farmers against rising fuel prices, among other demands.
The government said a review petition will be filed against the National Green Tribunal’s order to ban diesel vehicles that are over 10 years old and several other measures will be taken to pacify agitating farmers and address their concerns.
The Centre also assured farmers that it would fix the minimum support prices (MSP) of rabi (winter-sown) crops like wheat at least 1.5 times of the production cost. It would also try to restrict imports of agri items that are produced abundant in the country.
Shekhawat said a committee of chief ministers will also look into the farmers’ demand, as he sought to assure the protesters that the government will take forward their cause.
“Representatives of farmers along with ministers of UP government Laxmi Narayan and Suresh Rana held discussions on a range of issues at Rajnath Singh’s residence. After that a consent was reached on some issues. The government has agreed to some of your demands,” Shekhawat said.
The minister said he has been associated with farmers’ issues and he could say with “certainty” on Lal Bahadur Shastri’s birth anniversary that there have been only a few successful agitations like this in the past.
BKU chief Naresh Tikait, however, said the farmers are “not satisfied” with the government’s assurance. “This has not been a good decision. All important demands have not been accepted and we are not satisfied with this assurance,” he said.
“Our main demands of electricity, sugarcane recommendations of Swaminathan report remain as it is. These were among main demands of the farmers,” Tikait said. On the next step, he said, “We are sitting here as of now and this only is our next step.”
“We will discuss this and then decide on future course of action. I cannot decide anything alone, our committee will take the decision,” he added.
Delhi Police officials said seven policemen, including an assistant commissioner, were injured as protesting farmers turned violent while trying to enter the city from Uttar Pradesh in defiance of prohibitory orders, which have been in place since yesterday.
As it drew flak for what the opposition parties termed as “brutal” action against the protesters, the police said it used only “minimum required force” to control the situation.
Police said a section of protesters suddenly turned violent as the cops tried to persuade them not to break the barricades. Some farmers, riding tractors and trolleys, broke barricades of the UP Police and then started proceeding towards the barricades put up by the Delhi Police, a senior police officer said.
Inspector General Meerut Zone Ram Kumar said the UP Police was coordinating with the Delhi Police to ensure there is no law and order situation. Adjoining Gautam Buddh Nagar was also exercising caution with the district magistrate B N Singh saying nothing untoward has been reported there and preventive measures were being taken.