Farmer unions given ultimatum to vacate the spot that has been the centre of anti-farm law protests
The stand-off between the Ghaziabad administration and farmer unions continued at the Ghazipur border till late on Thursday night. After the Additional District Magistrate served a notice under Section 133 of CrPC, District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey gave the unions time till midnight to vacate the spot that has been the centre of anti-farm law protests for more than two months. With heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces, the U.P. Gate turned into a police cantonment. Section 144 was also imposed at the site.
The farmer leaders repeatedly made emotional appeals from the stage to the protesters to stay put but the numbers gradually thinned out as the evening progressed.
An emotional Mr. Tikait said he would not leave the site. He feared for the safety of farmers after his arrest. He reminded that the Supreme Court had not passed any order on the removal of protesters. “The district administration could not be bigger than the SC. We would move the SC against the district administration tomorrow,” he said.
He alleged that in the name of arrest there was a plot to eliminate him. “We want a judicial inquiry into the Red Fort incident. Deep Sidhu has already been socially boycotted,” he said.
Sources in the administration said it was a matter of time before the space was vacated. “We are trying to carry out the process peacefully. Farmers are packing up. They are some women in the tents and the langars will take some time to be vacated,” said Shailendra Singh, ADM (City) Ghaziabad.
He said the leaders were trying to delay the process to save their skins. “There is visual evidence that proves one of the leader’s presence at the Red Fort during the Republic Day clashes.” Sources in the administration said farmer leaders were negotiating for safe passage with them while taking a tough stand on the stage.
Earlier, leaders of the Bhartiya Kisan Union alleged that the administration was trying to vitiate the atmosphere by creating a BJP-sponsored violence at the protest site. Dharmendra Malik, media incharge of the BKU, claimed that the BJP MLA from Loni was seen at the site with his followers and tried to intimidate the farmers. He said the process started late on Wednesday night when the electricity supply was cut and CCTV cameras were gradually removed.
Mr. Pandey refuted the charge and said they were local businessmen who wanted to get their road vacated.
Prashant Kumar, ADG (Law & Order), said the perpetrators of Delhi violence would not be allowed to take shelter in the State.
Later, Mr. Tikait decided to sit on an indefinite fast. He said he would only drink water from his village. Meanwhile, his elder brother Naresh Tikait has called a mahapanchayat in their native village in Muzaffarnagar where he appealed to the farmers from Western U.P. to reach Ghazipur.