Protesting farmers up the ante with ‘rail roko’ call; ‘minimal impact,’ says Railways

With farmers blocking railway tracks across the country, protesters at Singhu border said it proved that the agitation was not confined to Punjab and Haryana.

Responding to a call for nationwide ‘rail roko’ (rail blockade) by the farmer unions protesting Centre’s three contentious farm laws, protesters in various parts of the country sat on railway tracks, resulting in some delays.

During the protest, announced by Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of farmer unions spearheading the agitations last week, trains were stopped at places, some were cancelled or rerouted. However, a spokesperson for the national transporter said there was negligible or minimal impact on railway services due to the ‘rail roko’ agitation. He said majority of the zonal railways reported no incident due to the protest.

This was the third major demonstration by farmers, following the Republic Day tractor rally and the ‘chakka jam’ on February 6.

Ahead of the protest, which was scheduled between 12 noon and 4 pm, the railways stepped up the security at the stations deploying 20 additional companies of RPSF troops across the country, especially in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

25 trains regulated in northern railway zone

Around 25 trains were regulated in the northern zone, a zonal railway spokesperson said, adding that there was, however, minimum effect of the agitation on the railways. Regulating trains means they have been either cancelled, short terminated or rerouted.

Farmers sat on railway tracks at many places in Punjab and Haryana as part of the ‘rail roko’ protest, with officials stopping trains at stations as a precautionary measure. Effects of the ‘rail roko’ call were also felt at Haryana’s Kurukshetra where the farmers climbed on the locomotive of Gita Jayanti Express train, which was stationary at that time, resulting in delays.

Women protesters in Haryana were at the forefront of the countrywide ‘Rail Roko’ campaign against the central farm laws on Thursday, as they dominated demonstrations during which movement on trains on several railway tracks across the state was halted. At some places, the protesting women were even seen dancing to folk songs while elders sat puffing on their hookahs on railway tracks.

According to a senior police officer, protests were held at 45 places on railway tracks but they were mostly peaceful. He added that the Railways had tweaked the timings of trains keeping in mind the ‘Rail Roko’ call. At several protest points, a sizeable massing of demonstrators, led by women, was seen.

At Barsola in Jind district, over 1,000 women protesters from neighbouring villages reached the nearest railway track to join their male counterparts who were also out in equal numbers. They sat on the Jind-Delhi railway line, blocking movement of trains from 12 noon to 4 pm on Thursday.

Railway track blockades were reported at Charkhi Dadri railway station in Haryana where the farmers served ‘jalebis’, tea and snacks to other protesters, police as well as railway officials.

In Punjab, the protesters sat on tracks on the Delhi-Ludhiana-Amritsar railway line and blocked the Jalandhar Cantt-Jammu railway track in Jalandhar and another rail track in Mohali district, the officials said.

Security was tightened in both Haryana and Punjab, with personnel of both the government railway police and state police being deployed there, officials said. The Ferozepur division of the Northern Railways decided to halt trains at stations so that passengers face less inconvenience during the ‘rail roko’ protest.

In stations near Delhi too, protesters gathered on the tracks. They also assembled near the Gazipur border at Modinagar railway station.

In Pune, Congress, Shiv Sena, AAP join protest

Members belonging to various organisations and political parties staged the ‘rail roko’ agitation at the Pune railway station to mark their protest against the Centre’s three farm laws, officials said. Labour welfare activist Nitin Pawar said that members of several organisations and workers of political parties, including Congress, Shiv Sena, NCP, Janata Dal and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), took part in the rail roko agitation at the Pune railway station on Thursday afternoon.

The protesters blocked the Koyna Express train and raised slogans standing in front of the train, he said. A Railway Protection Force (RPF) official said a case was registered against three activists, including Pawar, for unauthorisedly coming on the railway platform, crossing the tracks and raising slogans.

Meanwhile, the ‘Rail Roko’ event evoked a mixed response in Karnataka. While the protest was low-key in Bengaluru, there was a good turnout of protesters in Raichur, Belagavi and Davangere.

According to PTI, in Yeshwanthpur Railway station in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Raichur, Belagavi, Vijayapura, Davangere, Hubballi-Dharwad, Koppal and Kolar, the agitators tried in vain to storm into the railway stations to stop trains.

In Raichur, Belagavi and Davangere, protesters were arrested.

In Bengaluru, the agitation was led by farmer-leader Kuruburu Shanthakumar. However, there was no great impact.

12 persons detained near Aurangabad

Members of a farmers’ union staged protests at Lasur railway station in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district. At least 12 persons were detained that the agitation staged by Lal Bawta Shet Majur Union at the station, which is around 40 km from Aurangabad, an official said. “The Jalna-Mumbai Janshatabdi train was stopped at the station for around 30 minutes. We have detained around 12 agitators and further probe is underway,” the official from the railway police said.

Similarly, the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (AIKS) staged a protest outside Aurangabad railway station.

CPI stages protest in Kolkata

Apart from this, glimpses of the ‘rail roko’ protest could also be seen in Kolkata’s Jadavpur station in Bengal. Railway tracks were blocked and trains were delayed as the CPI party called for ‘rail roko’ from 11 am in support of the ongoing farmers’ protest.

Proof that protest not limited to Punjab and Haryana: Farmers on ‘rail roko’

With farmers blocking railway tracks across the country, protesters at Singhu border said it proved that the agitation was not confined to Punjab and Haryana.

“The government has constantly been saying that the protest against the three farm laws is being staged by the farmers of just two states, Punjab and Haryana, but the rail roko andolan shows that the government is wrong.

“Farmers from so many states have participated. That is why it was important for us to protest on the railway tracks. Like the railways that has a nationwide network, our protest is also happening across the country,” Krantikari Kisan Union’s Gurdaspur district president Bhajan Singh was quoted as saying by PTI.

“The three laws need to be repealed and the Samyukt Kisan Morcha is trying to put pressure on the government from every angle. But we have been protesting peacefully and will continue to do so,” the Jalandhar state unit president of the BKU (Kadia), said, adding that the “rail roko” event was held for just four hours because the farmers “only wanted to send a message to the government and not inconvenience the public”. “We do not want to create problems for the passengers. We only want the government to accept our demands, so that they can also sleep peacefully and we can return home to our families,” he said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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