Even though the Delhi Police has approved the tractor rally scheduled in the capital for 26 January to protest the three new farm laws, the Uttar Pradesh Police appears to be deterring the state’s residents from participating in it. Markande Singh, the president of the Ghazipur Petroleum Dealers Association, told me that the state police issued them notices to not give diesel to tractors. On 24 January, The Hindu reported on legal notices sent to tractor owners asking them to not run their vehicles on the road till Republic Day. Shailesh Kumar Singh, the station house officer of Nonhara Police Station in Ghazipur, told me on 25 January that he has been making farmers’ leaders sign notices “so that they do not participate in the 26 January rally.” Two farmers’ leaders from the All India Kisan Sabha, the Communist Party of India’s peasant wing, told me that the SHO made them sign notices without letting them read it.
On the morning of 24 January, several news portals reported that Omprakash Singh, Ghazipur’s superintendent of police, said that there is no decree restraining petrol pump owners from giving fuel to tractors. The Ghazipur Police also tweeted that the direction had been issued by mistake by the Suhwa police station in the district, but it was subsequently withdrawn. The matter would be investigated further, it said. But Ramesh Kumar, a journalist based in Manihari village in Ghazipur, said, “This has not just happened in one station, it has happened in so many places. So how are the police in-charges doing this without his permission? The administration wants to stop all the people who are active in this protest.”
Markande, who owns a petrol pump near Ghazipur district’s Khalispur village, told me that the Nandganj Police Station sent him a notice to not give diesel to tractors at 4 pm on 23 January. Markande sent me the notice: it did not name who it was issued for but mentioned that it was issued by Rakesh Kumar Singh, the SHO of Nandgang Police Station. Rakesh denied issuing such a notice. But Markande told me, “The police is still going to villages and asking people to not give diesel to tractors.” He also shared a notice with me which was issued to another person, asking to not ply their tractor between 22 January and 26 January.
Pranjal Yadav, a student of law at Delhi University, who is currently living in the Bhatoli village, told me his family was suffering because they have been unable to use their tractor. While his father, who is a farmer, has not been issued such a notice, Pranjal said that the direction of not plying tractors till 26 January “was being applied to the whole district.” Pranjal told me he went to get diesel for the tractor once, but the petrol pump refused. “That aside, we cannot bring the tractor out of our house for three days—they are immediately imposing fines and handing you a notice,” he said. According to him, police vehicles that arrive after dialling 112—the state’s emergency number—are visible around his village. “It’s just about the farmers’ movement,” he said. “The government is trying to suppress it in every possible way.”
“The tractor at my place is used not just on farms, but also to carry bricks,” Pranjal said. “We cannot take our tractor out of our home. All work that has to be done with tractors on farms has been stopped. Irrigation or any material that has to be carried to the city—none of that work can be done.” He added, “The government’s intention in this movement has never been right. Now, I feel that it does not even want to solve the farmers’ problem.”
Two farmers’ leaders from the AIKS told me that officials from the Nonhara Police Station came to their house and made them sign some notices. One of them was Rajendra Yadav, a former member of legislative assembly of Ghazipur from the Communist Party of India and the state secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha. He told me that on the evening of 23 January, seven or eight officials from the station including the SHO had come to his house. “They got a notice signed from me and then took it back,” he said, before adding that they did not let him read the notice.
Janardan Ram, a resident of Rasulpur village who is the district president of the All India Kisan Sabha, told me on 25 January that the SHO came to his house and asked him to sign a paper and left. Ram said he was not allowed to read the notice. After he left, Ram said two policemen were deployed in his house and refused to let him out. When asked about both the leaders, Shailesh, the SHO, said that many leaders are being made to sign notices so that they do not participate in the rally. When I specifically asked him about Rajendra’s account, he said, “So, this is not the first time he was made to sign this.” He then hung up the phone.
“The administration is harassing farmers’ leaders,” Ram added. “They want to keep farmers’ leaders shut in their homes. Even if they put us jail, we will not stop our programs. They are completely scared of the farmers and are now adopting all kinds of tactics. They want to show that there is no movement against the laws in Uttar Pradesh.”
Earlier this month, I reported that three other farmers’ leaders in Uttar Pradesh had alleged that the police was harassing them to stifle the farmers’ movement in the state. One of the leaders had alleged that the police had disallowed her from stepping out of her house for a day. They, too, said that the government wants to show that there is no movement against the laws in the state.
Everyone I spoke to said that the Ghazipur Police was trying its best to suppress the movement. “See, this government is scared of farmers,” Markande, the petrol pump owner, said. Markande said he also owns a six-bigha huge farmland. Referring to the chief minister, Ajay Singh Bisht, he told me, “This Yogi Adityanath government wants to show that there is no movement in Uttar Pradesh, especially eastern Uttar Pradesh.” Ramesh Kumar, the journalist, said, that despite the police’s notices and decrees, “People are coming out. Whenever the farmers’ committee in Delhi calls from protests, the farmers in Ghazipur district also mobilise.” He added, “To end this movement, the government is trying to use all the institutions at its disposal—whether it is in Uttar Pradesh or the whole country. Sometimes they start calling people ‘Khalistani,’ sometimes something else. But the movement has shattered all such labels.”
Like others, Ramesh told me that “Ghazipur’s farmers want to come to Delhi. The farmers here are also filled with anger.” Markande said, “Just as the prices of diesel and fertilizers have increased, for many farmers the cost of cultivation has also increased. Everyone is suffering at the hands of this government.” Referring to the police’s moves to deter the tractor rally, he said, “The administration is only strengthening the farmers’ movement by doing this. Those who were not understanding earlier that the government is doing something wrong are understanding that now.”
Gopal Swaroop Pandey, the district president of the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti—a farmers’ collective in Ghazipur—told me that the government intends to “discourage” the farmers. But, he said, “We will do our programme. Whether they arrest us or do whatever, we will not stop.”