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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024
Policemen stand watching

Groups chanting 'goli maaro…' attack farmers at Singhu border

The attack came a day after farmers at Ghazipur thwarted an eviction attempt

Anita Joshua New Delhi Published 30.01.21, 03:32 AM
A man hurls stones at the farmers protesting at the Singhu border as policemen stand by.

A man hurls stones at the farmers protesting at the Singhu border as policemen stand by. (PTI picture)

Groups chanting “goli maaro…” attacked farmers at the Singhu border on Friday, demanding they vacate the protest site because they had “insulted” the national flag on Republic Day, as policemen stood watching.

One of the men in the group had the Tricolour crumpled up in his fist as he charged towards the farmers. The men, who claimed to be Singhu residents, wielded sticks and threw stones at the protesters, who have been sitting on a peaceful dharna on Delhi’s borders for two months to seek the repeal of three new farm laws.

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“They are not locals but hired goons. They were throwing stones and petrol bombs at us. They attempted to burn down our trolleys also,” PTI quoted farmer Harkirat Mann Beniwal, 21, as saying.

The attack came a day after farmers at Ghazipur thwarted an eviction attempt. A group claiming to be locals chanted slogans against the protesters at Tikri too.

The chaos during the Republic Day tractor rally, when some protesters clashed with police and a group hoisted the Nishan Sahib and a peasant union flag on an empty flag pole at Red Fort, had eroded public support for the movement and demoralised the farmers.

But the heavy-handed action at Ghazipur border, where the administration cut off water and power supply and ordered the protesters to vacate, and Friday’s attack at Singhu where the so-called locals chanted the slogan “goli maaro… (shoot them down)” that was the clarion call for the Delhi riots last year have angered the farmers, instead of cowing them down, and infused new energy into the movement.

These have also encouraged farmer union leaders to name the RSS-BJP as the villains. Union leader Yudhveer Singh said: “We do not need lectures on nationalism from those who had refused to hoist the national flag at their headquarters till some years ago. Farmers send their children to the border to fight and have received their bodies draped in the Tricolour.”

Until now, most union leaders had been careful about only discussing the farm laws and not getting into the politics, but the “conspiracy” to malign them and weaken their movement appears to have forced a change in stand.

According to the union leaders, the government and the BJP-RSS were not only trying to sabotage the farmers’ movement, but were also attempting to divide the farming community along religious lines.

Alleging that a group had held a protest at Gurdwara Sis Ganj in Chandni Chowk, veteran union leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said the government was trying to turn this into a “Hindu-Sikh” issue.

Some of the union leaders admitted the ploy had almost worked after the Nishan Sahib was hoisted at the Red Fort and BJP leaders flooded social media with pictures. Some people falsely alleged that the Tricolour had been displaced. The Haryana contingent of farmers was apparently upset, seeing it as a bid by the Sikh farmers to give the protest a communal colour.

But the crackdown on Ghazipur on Thursday pushed back these concerns as farmers once again felt the need to rally together. On Thursday night, two BJP MLAs from Ghaziabad had been seen at the Ghazipur border with a group of “locals”, demanding that the farmers vacate the site.

At Singhu, the “locals” were able to enter the protest arena despite additional barricading since Thursday, and threw stones at the protesters in front of the police. This triggered a retaliation. The large police force eventually intervened, firing tear smoke canisters and resorting to a lathicharge.

Delhi police station house officer Pradeep Paliwal was left with a bleeding hand when he intervened in a clash between a sword-wielding protester and the alleged locals. A police officer said some farmers and policemen had been injured. The police have detained 43 people, including the man wielding the sword.

Although the crowd of “locals” did not have any known face of the BJP, their slogans were similar. “Goli maaro” was a slogan some BJP leaders had chanted last year.

As the call to proceed towards Delhi spread like wildfire, the Haryana administration ordered a clampdown on Internet services across the state till Saturday evening, drawing criticism from the farmers who see it as yet another part of government repression against them as it comes in the face of attempts to cut off facilities to the protest sites.

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