They braved teargas shells and water cannons, hit back with stones in some places and attempted to break barricades as they camped at Delhi's various border points for hours, but the doughty farmers were undeterred by it all and said they would keep up the fight against the new farm laws.
Carrying flags and shouting slogans, thousands of farmers gathered at various entry points into the national capital in a determined bid to push their way through as part of their 'Delhi Chalo' march while police blocked them with barricades, teargas shells and batons.
Police resorted to lathicharge for a brief time to control protesters who broke barricades. Hours later, they were granted permission to enter Delhi and stage a peaceful protest at Nirankari ground in Burari.
"We will not go back till our demands are met. We will stage a peaceful protest now at the designated place. We had to cross several barricades to reach the place but we are ready to face anything," one of the protesting farmers said.
Clashes broke out at multiple places and Delhi's borders resembled a virtual battle zone with restless crowds of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, milling around and a sea of police personnel keeping them at bay. Drones circled the air and plumes of smoke from teargas shells could be seen from far.
Near Singhu border, three petrol pumps were temporarily closed as a precautionary measure.
"They (police) have been citing COVID-19 guidelines to stop us from marching ahead but we will take all precautions. We will continue with our fight and go ahead with our march despite all challenges ahead," another farmer said.
Raising anti-government slogans and chanting "Kisan Ekta Zindabad" and "Wahe guruji da Khalsa, Wahe guruji fateh", farmers in huge numbers sat at the borders beating 'daflis'.
Continuous announcements were being made through loudspeakers requesting farmers to go back and maintain peace, social distancing and law and order.
"Our leaders are speaking to the authorities and accordingly, the next course of action will be taken as per their decision," an agitator said.
Security was strengthened at the border and sand-laden trucks and water cannons were stationed. Barbed wire was also used for fencing at the Singhu border to prevent the protesters from entering the city, earlier in the day.
Punjab farmers, representing over 30 farm bodies, had announced that they will go to Delhi through several routes -- Lalru, Shambhu, Patiala-Pehowa, Patran-Khanauri, Moonak-Tohana, Ratia-Fatehabad and Talwandi-Sirsa. Tension was escalating at all the border points.
Farmers had assembled near the borders in tractor-trolleys laden with rations and essentials for their proposed Dmarch. Authorities in Haryana have imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in several parts of the state to prevent assembly of the protesters.
Farmers' bodies said they will hold a dharna wherever they are stopped from moving towards the national capital.
"We have enough ration stock to last for days. We will not go back till our demands are met," a farmer said.
Punjab farmers are demanding the repeal of the new farm laws, which, they said, should be replaced with another set of legislations framed after wider consultation with the stakeholders. They also want a guarantee on the minimum support prices.
"Things are under control as of now. The protesters and police are at the either sides of the second barricades. The have been raising slogans. Some people who wanted to commute through the border, were advised to take alternate routes," a senior police officer said.
Local residents also gathered at the terrace of the buildings and shops near the national highway.
The Singhu border that connects Narela and adjoining Delhi areas with Sonepat was closed around 4.30 pm on Thursday as Delhi Police said they had inputs from their Haryana counterparts about farmers nearing the border.
Photographs: PTI Photos