'Here for the long haul'
New Delhi: While tensions were high since Thursday evening in anticipation of the massive "Dilli Chalo" march, law enforcement officials had added 4 layers of barricades at borders in Singhu (Haryana) and Tikri (UP) to brace for the following day.
On Friday, as thousands of unyielding farmers accumulated at the borders, the first set of tear gas shelling started at 8.30 am near the Singhu border. Following this, the second round started at around 11:30 am when the protesters got closer to the 4-layer barricade at the border.
"This is democracy. A few farmers trying to get their voices out are welcomed with tear gas," a farmer said while running away from tear gas shells.
The third round of tear gas shelling came at around 2:30 pm and water cannons were used as farmers broke the barbed wires - the first layer of barricading. At around 3 pm another round of tear gas shells was fired at protesters.
The security arrangements at the border were no less than what is expected for Independence Day or Republic Day. The borders were lined with four layers of barricading. First, barbed wire and boulders, then sand-laden trucks and water cannons, behind which was a line of JCB machines where over 1,000 personnel from the Delhi Police, RAF, and CAPFs stood in riot gear.
As the day progressed, police started using tear gas, water cannons to stop farmers but despite all attempts, the agitating farmers continued with their fight against the new farm laws. Batons were also used on protestors and stone-pelting was also reported. Protesters, however, were also using all tactics to remove barricades and trucks so that they could enter the Capital to be heard.
By the time the Delhi government had denied permission to jail the farmers, senior police officers and farmers' leaders visited key border areas and held several meetings. The Delhi Police Commissioner himself was monitoring the situation and the top brass were on the ground and in continuous talk with farmers.
Meetings between farmers were also held regarding their further plans for the agitation. Police deployment was done on points from where farmers were coming and security was heightened at government buildings.
However, as usual, local and office-goers faced inconveniences due to the protests.
Police sources claimed that last year, a standard operating procedure (SOP) was being formulated on "how to tackle Agrarian movements". A committee comprising 14 senior officers from all parts of the country including a Special CP rank officer from Delhi Police has been constituted to formulate the SOP.
However, throughout the day, the farmers at Delhi-Haryana's Singhu border said they have come here for the long haul. As thousands of farmers sat to protest at the border, hundreds of trucks and tractors ladled with ration and all basic necessities have been parked at the highway.
"We have come prepared for at least six months because our fight is long and hard. With us we have trucks of food and other necessary things," Balveer Singh told Millennium Post.
Amid the chaos, both policemen and farmers focussed on ensuring free passage to ambulances and emergency services. Every farmer, who was present in bordering areas of Delhi, wanted the government to hear them.
Meanwhile, for many policemen who are from farmer families, the moment in bordering areas turned melancholic quickly. "What an irony it is that brothers are having to face each other," one police personnel, requesting anonymity, said.