Amid the ongoing march of thousands of farmers towards Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the national capital has firmly declined the Centre’s proposal to convert a stadium into a makeshift jail for them. The Arvind Kejriwal-led government emphasised the fundamental right of every citizen has the right to peaceful protest.
According to reports, the Centre proposed to convert the Rajiv Gandhi stadium in Bawana into a space to detain the protesting farmers. Delhi Home Minister Kailash Gehlot emphasised the farmers’ grievances and the need for dialogue, urging the Central government to engage in constructive discussions rather than resorting to punitive measures.
“The demands of the farmers are genuine. Secondly, it is the Constitutional right of every citizen to make a peaceful protest. It is, therefore, incorrect to arrest the farmers,” Kailash Gehlot has said in a reply to the said proposal.
“Farmers of the country are our ‘annadata’ and treating them in this way would be like rubbing salt into their wounds. We cannot be a party to this decision of the Central Government,” the minister added.
The farmers have put forth several demands, including the enactment of a law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crops, as well as access to pension and insurance benefits. Despite multiple rounds of discussions, no significant progress has been made between the farmers and the Centre.
In anticipation of the “Delhi Chalo” march, the national capital has been fortified, with its borders sealed off with cement barriers, sandbags, and other deterrents. The Delhi Police have imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144, banning large gatherings and protest marches, while also restricting vehicular movement across borders.
The farmers, originating from Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab, have expressed their intent to protest peacefully, disavowing any political affiliations. They remain undeterred by the heightened security measures and plan to make decisions upon reaching the border.
Arjun Munda, Minister for State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, reiterated the government’s commitment to addressing farmers’ concerns through dialogue and collaboration with the states. “On some issues, we will need to consult the states. We will find a way out. We are always ready to talk and find a solution,” he said.
The stringent preparations by Delhi Police aim to prevent a recurrence of the events witnessed during the January 26, 2021 protests, where farmers clashed with the cops. Farmer organizations have issued warnings against any mistreatment of protesters.