Modified tractors, carrying rations, woollens, essential items and people, passed through Haryana on Thursday evening as thousands of Punjab farmers protesting against the government's new farm laws, slowly moved closer to Delhi. Undeterred by police barricades, tear gas and water cannons, the farmers have been continuing the march since Thursday morning.
"More than 50,000 farmers will be standing at the Delhi border by today evening," two farmers' bodies claimed. Close to midnight, water cannons started up at Haryana's Sonipat to disperse a small group of Punjab farmers. The day has been replete with clashes -- on one occasion the protesters even pitched the yellow iron barricades into the river below while trying to cross a narrow bridge.
The Punjab farmers, who had been camping out at the sealed Haryana border since yesterday, started their march Thursday morning. Most have managed to reach Haryana's Karnal. The protesters had an intense, two-hour clash with the police on a bridge nearly 200 km from Delhi. As the barricades were thrown into the river, the police responded with tear gas and water cannons, which further enraged the protesters.
For nearly three months, the farmers have been up in arms against the farm laws, aimed at bringing reforms by doing away with middlemen and improving farmers' earnings by allowing them to sell produce anywhere in the country. The farmers and opposition parties contend that the laws could lead to government stopping the system of buying grain at guaranteed prices, which would leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.