Rail Roko: Farmers squat on rail tracks

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New Delhi/Chandigarh/Jaipur, Oct 18 (PTI): Farmers squatted on rail tracks at several places on Monday morning as part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s six-hour ‘rail roko’ protest over the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, hampering train movement in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The stir affected 150 locations in the Northern Railway zone and hindered the running of 60 trains causing inconvenience to passengers who could be seen waiting for long hours with their baggage.

In the North Western Railway (NWR) zone, rail traffic was affected in some sections in Rajasthan and Haryana with 18 trains cancelled, 10 partially cancelled and one diverted due to the protest.

Agitations were held at Punjab’s Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Moga, Patiala and Ferozepur, and Haryana’s Charkhi Dadri, Sonipat, Kurukshetra, Jind, Karnal and Hisar.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar, Bharatiya Kisan Union workers halting the Amritsar-Delhi and the Jalandhar Express trains by staging a dharna on rail tracks.

Trains were halted at Meerut and Greater Noida’s Dankaur stations by the protesters, BKU media in-charge Dharmendra Malik said. In Ghaziabad’s Modinagar, staged a demonstration infront of a goods train which already reached its destination.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions spearheading the agitation against the Centre’s Agri laws, had said, “To press for its demand for MoS Home Ajay Mishra’s dismissal and arrest, so that justice can be secured in the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre, Samyukt Kisan Morcha has announced a nation-wide Rail Roko programme.

“SKM put out a call to its constituents to stop rail traffic for six hours on October 18 between 10 am and 4 pm,” it had said.

Protesting farmers, including women, raised slogans against the BJP-led government and demanded the arrest of Ajay Mishra. Security was deployed at rail stations in the wake of the protest.

Farmers sat on rail tracks in several sections, including the Ferozepur-Fazilka section in Ferozepur city and the Ferozepur-Ludhiana section at Ajitwal in Moga, officials said.

In Rajasthan, farmers held a protest on the tracks in Hanumangarh district and raised slogans against the Central and the Uttar Pradesh governments. In the state capital, members of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha staged a protest at the entrance of the Jaipur Junction station.

State joint secretary of SKM Sanjay Madhav said, “We have not been allowed to enter the Jaipur junction so we have started the dharna at the entrance.”

The trains that have been affected in the Northern Railway zone include the Chandigarh-Firozpur Express. Its scheduled departure from Ludhiana was 7 am, but has been stranded there due to a blockade in the Firozpur-Ludhiana section, its chief public relation officer said.

The New Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi Express was halted near Shambu station due to blockades near Sahnewal and Rajpura. “About 25 passenger and short-distance trains have been cancelled,” the officer said.

In Rajasthan, the agitation affected train movement in Hanumangarh and Sriganganagar of the Bikaner division.

An NWR spokesperson said rail traffic on Bhiwani-Rewari, Sirsa-Rewari, Loharu-Hisar, Suratgarh-Bathinda, Sirsa-Bathinda, Hanumangarh-Bathinda, Rohtak-Bhiwani, Rewari-Sadulpur, Hisar-Bathinda, Hanumangarh-Sadulpur and Sri Ganganagar-Rewari sections was affected.

Eighteen trains, including the Firozpur-Hanumangarh Special train, Ludhiana-Hisar Special train, Bathinda-Sriganganagar Special train, Bathinda-Lalgarh Special train, Phulera-Rewari Special train, Rewari-Jodhpur Special train, Ratangarh–Churu special train and Churu-Bikaner special train, were cancelled on Monday, he said.

Ten trains have been partially cancelled due to the stir.

The route of Ahmedabad-Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra Special train has also been changed, the NWR spokesperson said, adding the train which departed from Ahmedabad on Saturday will run via Rewari-Delhi-Pathankot to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra.

At Ludhiana railway station – one of the busiest in Punjab – a person headed for Jodhpur rued that he came to know about the protest after reaching the station.

He appealed to farmer leaders to lay siege to the residences of politicians rather than harassing the common man. “They should think about the public.”

A man waiting for his train at Ludhiana station with his family said they have to rush for Gonda in UP as one of their relatives has died.

At Patiala station, Dinesh Joshi searched frantically for milk and hot water for his child as the train he was travelling in had stopped due to farmers’ protest.

A group of protests put up a banner with ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ written on it in front of a train forced to stop at Moga. They also carried photos of four farmers killed in the Lakhimpur violence.

Demanding the arrest of Ajay Mishra, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher on Monday said the KMSC will hold protests at 20 places in 11 districts of Punjab.

Four of the eight people who died in the violence on October 3 were farmers, allegedly knocked down by a vehicle carrying BJP workers. Angry farmers then allegedly lynched some people in the vehicles.

The other dead included two BJP workers and their driver.

Farmers have claimed that Ashish Mishra was in one of the vehicles, an allegation denied by him and Ajay Mishra who say they can produce evidence to prove he was at an event at that time.

Ashish Mishra was arrested in the case on October 9.

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