Scores of protesting farmers from Punjab and Haryana on Saturday took out protest marches against the Centre's three farm laws even as police used a water cannon to disperse cultivators as they broke barricades at the Chandigarh-Mohali border.
Farmers had planned to march towards Punjab and Haryana Raj Bhavans and submit a memorandum to mark the completion of seven months of their agitation against the three central agri-marketing laws on June 26.
A heavy police force was deployed in and around Chandigarh to stop protesters from heading towards Punjab and Haryana Raj Bhavans, said officials.
Barricades were put up at many places to prevent farmers coming from Mohali and Panchkula to go towards Chandigarh.
However, agitating farmers, coming from the Mohali side, entered Chandigarh after forcing their way through barricades put up at the Chandigarh-Mohali border while facing water cannon.
A protester could be seen climbing to the top of a water cannon vehicle.
Earlier, a large number of farmers from several parts of Punjab assembled at Gurdwara Amb Sahib in Mohali before moving towards the Punjab Governor House.
Similarly, farmers from several parts of Haryana also gathered at Gurdwara Nada Sahib in Haryana's Panchkula. They headed towards Haryana Raj Bhavan.
Farmers in Panchkula forced their way through a layer of barricades but they were not allowed to enter Chandigarh and stopped at the Chandigarh-Panchkula border where Haryana police had deployed water cannon and trucks.
Farmers coming from the Mohali side were led by farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal while protesters from the Haryana side were led by Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni and Samyukt Kisan Morcha member Yogendra Yadav.
Carrying farmer outfits' flags and raising slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, farmers, including women and youths, coming from Mohali marched towards Chandigarh on tractors, vehicles and walked on foot.
They were stopped near sector 17 by police where some buses were parked on the road to prevent protesters from heading towards Punjab Raj Bhavan. Rajewal there submitted the memorandum to the Chandigarh Deputy Commissioner for giving it to the Punjab Governor.
Similarly, Gurnam Singh Chaduni and Yogendra Yadav gave a memorandum to another official to submit it to the Haryana governor.
After the submission of memorandums, farmer leaders appealed to protesters to return.
Though traffic was diverted to alternative routes, commuters in Chandigarh faced inconvenience.
The majority of farmers were without masks and not following Covid- appropriate behaviour.
Chandigarh Senior Superintendent of Police Kuldeep Chahal praised the police personnel for handling the situation with patience and maturity and not allowing the situation to go out of hand.
Meanwhile, gangster-turned-activist Lakha Sidhana, who was booked for his alleged involvement in violence that ensued at the Red Fort on Republic Day, could also be seen participating in the farmers' protest programme.
Earlier addressing the gathering at Gurdwara Amb Sahib, Rajewal slammed the Modi-led government over the three farm legislation and alleged that the Central government intended to “hand over farming” to corporate houses.
Independent MLA from Haryana Sombir Sangwan, who was present at Gurdwara Nada Sahib, said the farm laws will ‘destroy’ the farming community.
Farmers have been protesting against the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
They have been camping at Delhi borders since November last year demanding the withdrawal of these three laws and that a new law be made to guarantee minimum support price for their crops.
Several rounds of talks between the farmers and the government have failed to break the deadlock over these contentious laws.
The government last held talks with farmer leaders on January 22. The talks between the two sides came to a halt after a January 26 tractor parade by farmers in Delhi turned violent.