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Tension, apprehension loom over Singhu following violence
New Delhi, January 30, 2021
The Delhi Police have turned Singhu, on the national capital's border with Haryana, where scores of farmers are protesting against the three contentious Central farm laws for over two months now, into an island.
The protest site has been barricaded and blocked for entry and exit from all the sides.
The 2-km road which starts at a U-turn for the Singhu border and leads to the protest site is barred for the entry of any vehicles other than those belonging to the security personnel. One has to cover the distance on foot to reach the protest site.
The whole road is flooded with personnel of Delhi Police and the Rapid Action Force, geared with anti-riot equipment in anticipation of any fresh spurt of violence.
One has to cross as many as eight security checkpoints created on the road to reach the protest site. Each point is guarded by more than 50 security personnel.
At every point, the personnel would ask the purpose of visit and proof of identity before allowing people to go to the next check-post where the entire process will be repeated.
The police officials said that heavy security was deployed after the Republic Day incident when a group of farmers went rogue and clashed with the police at many points in Delhi.
The last checkpoint was swarmed by media professionals. After inquiring, it became clear that the police have not allowed the press to go inside the protest site. "We have been ordered to not let anyone enter from here," a police officer said. However, he did not tell who had issued the order.
Even after repeated attempts and requests, during which there were several heated arguments between the media and the police, the officials stuck to their stand and the journalists were told to turn back.
However, this reporter found a way to the protest site.
The scenes at the site were quiet but tense. Suspicion for unknown faces was visible onthe faces of the farmers camping in their trolleys on the Singhu border, which has been home to them for more than 60 days now
However, they said that their spirits are still high. "No doubt the unfortunate incidents of violence have impacted the farmers' morale, but to boost that, our brothers are coming from Punjab and Haryana," said Nakhdeep Bhindra, a young farmer from Punjab.
Meanwhile, apprehensive gaze of the farmers followed this reporter wherever he went. Many declined the request to speak while a few agreed with scepticism. Interestingly, every conversation with the farmers were video recorded by them.
"While everything is routinely normal here, we have become extra cautious after Friday's violence," said Sukhdeep Singh, a protester.
On Friday, violence erupted at the Singhu protest site after over 500 persons claiming to be locals pelted a farmers' camp with stones, leading to a clash between them and the agitating farmers.
Many farmers were unhhappy with the coverage of the events that unfolded on Friday and on January 26. They alleged that the media has been showing only one side of the violence. "Even our people were injured in the violence on Republic Day and on Friday. But all the sympathy was directed towards the police," said Manu Chautala, a farmer from Haryana.
The farmers are also wary of the coverage by specific media groups which is continuously portraying the protest in a bad light. "Are you Godi media," asked every person this reporter tried to speak to.
Some even attempted to Google the name and organisation of this reporter but the mobile showed no internet connectivity as net services have been temporarily suspended till January 31 in the area after orders from the Union Home Ministry.
"The mainstream media has been calling us traitors, terrorists and Khalistanis. Which terrorist protests peacefully?" asked Joginder Bhatti, an elderly protester from Punjab.