Support for the farmers' protest swelled on Saturday, as more villagers poured in at a key protest site on the Delhi-Meerut highway in Ghazipur on the border with Uttar Pradesh.
The Bharatiya Kisan Union-led protest against the Centre's new farm laws in Ghaziabad looked like it was going slim on Thursday but more protesters have joined the stir, following a mahapanchayat of farmers on Saturday in Muzaffarnagar, while supporters also joined in from Haryana and Rajasthan districts.
"The movement was and is strong," BKU's Meerut Zone president Pawan Khatana said.
Khatana, who is at the demonstration site with BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, said there has been continuous support for the "peaceful protest" against the farmers' demand for removal of the new agri laws.
"This is not a political protest. Anybody who shares the ideology of the BKU and Rakesh Tikait are welcome here. But it is our appeal to those who do not wish to support the movement till the end that please do not come only to leave in between," he said.
Asked about estimated crowd size at the site, the farmer leader from western Uttar Pradesh said, "Farmers are coming in to show solidaRity and leaving. It is not a stagnant crowd."
On Saturday night, the BKU office-bearers had estimated a crowd of around 10,000 people at Ghazipur while the Ghaziabad police officials pegged it around 5,000 to 6,000.
Heavy security deployment, including personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary, Rapid Action Force in anti-riot gears and civil police, was made at the protest site.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Traffic Police said to and fro movement on the National Highway 24 (Delhi-Meerut Expressway) has been closed.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporations.
However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.