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Bharat Bandh against farm laws disrupts lives in pockets, highway


New Delhi, Social Times. Several trains were cancelled, highways and key roads blocked and many thousands stranded for hours on Monday as a nationwide 10-hour shutdown against the Centre's three agri laws disrupted lives across parts of India, particularly in the north.


The 6 am to 4 pm Bharat Bandh, which saw demonstrations and rallies in many places, passed off relatively peacefully with no reports of injuries or serious clashes. The impact was felt the most around Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, the centre of the farm protests, and also in large pockets of Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.


Protesters blocked highways and arterial roads and squatted on tracks in several places from morning as the shutdown called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions, got underway. The blockade was lifted at 4 pm.


The SKM claimed in a statement that its call for a shutdown had received an "unprecedented and historic" response from more than 23 states and not a single untoward incident was reported from anywhere.


"Reports have been pouring in about the overwhelmingly positive and resounding response to the Bharat Bandh call to mark 10 months of peaceful protests with rightful demands from the 'annadaatas' of the country," it said.


The day marks one year since President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the three controversial laws and 10 months since thousands of farmers set up camp at Delhi's border points to voice their protest.


Looking ahead, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said at an online discussion that a solution could only be reached through dialogue and not in the courts.


"I don't know what is going to be the end of this protest but the movement has begun and the country's youth, which often remained away from discussion on farming-related issues, is also joining it," he said.


Tikait also issued a statement to say that the response had shown their protest is a pan India one. The agitation, he said, can end today if the Centre agrees to a rollback.


Farmers blocked other roads leading into the national capital, including at Ghazipur in western Uttar Pradesh. Not far away in Sonipat in Haryana, some farmers squatted on tracks. In nearby Patiala in Punjab, too, members of the BKU-Ugrahan sat on the tracks to register their protest.


Punjab saw a complete shutdown in many places, including Moga where farmers blocked national highways. Farmer leaders from Punjab have, in many ways, spearheaded the year-long protest.


#I Stand With Farmers & appeal the Union Govt. to repeal the three anti-farmer laws. Our farmers have been struggling for their rights since more than a year & it is high time that their voice is heard , Punjab's new chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi said in a tweet.


According to the SKM, people gathered at more than 500 locations in Punjab to express their support to the bandh.


In neighbouring Haryana, highways in Sirsa, Fatehabad and Kurukshetra were blocked.


There were also reports of farmers squatting on rail tracks at a few places in the two states.


More than 20 locations are being blocked in Delhi, Ambala, and Firozepur divisions. About 25 trains are affected due to this," a Northern Railway spokesperson said.


Many non-NDA parties extended support to the bandh. These included the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Left parties and Swaraj India. The YSR Congress government in Andhra Pradesh had also announced support to the Bharat Bandh.