On 25 November, the eve of the “Delhi Chalo” march called by farmers’ unions to protest the central government’s recently enacted controversial farm laws, thousands of families from Punjab’s peasantry class assembled at various points of the Haryana border to prepare for the next day. The Haryana government, ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, had earlier announced its decision to seal all state borders with Punjab and Delhi to prevent farmers from reaching the national capital for the protest. This did little to deter the protesters, who arrived in large numbers on tractor trolleys, with ration stocks for months, ready for a long stand-off. “We have everything—ration, fuel wood, milk—and we are prepared for six months,” Balbir Kaur, a protester at Khanauri, a town in Punjab on the national highway 52 to Delhi, told me.
The “Delhi Chalo” protest has the support of over three hundred farmers’ organisations from states across the country, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. It is spearheaded by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, an umbrella group of numerous farmers’ unions that came together to oppose the farm laws. The protest called for farmers from across the country to reach the national capital on 26 and 27 November for an indefinite protest against the farm laws, which were introduced as ordinances in June, and enacted into law by Parliament in September.
On the national highway at Khanauri, the Haryana Police were determined to prevent the protesters from moving forward. The police had put up huge cement blocks to block the highway, around ten metres ahead of mesh wires and barricades at the border. On the Haryana side of the border, the police were present in large numbers, wearing riot gear and with water cannons stationed at the site. Om Parkash Narwal, a deputy inspector general of Haryana police and the superintendent of police of Jind district, stood at the Khanauri border. He told the media on the spot, “Section 144 has been imposed in the state so we cannot allow more than five persons to enter.” He said that heavy police force had been deployed in the area and added that a four-layer barricade had been laid to prevent the movement of the protesters into Haryana.
The Haryana government had also blocked four national highways entering Delhi, and put up blockades at its bordering areas with Punjab: Dabwali, which lies on the national highway 9; Shambhu, near the bordering district of Ambala; and Khanauri. The government had also reportedly blocked the entry points from Punjab in Haryana’s districts of Panchkula, Kaithal, Jind, Fatehabad and Sirsa for three days, starting 25 November.
But the scenes at Khanauri revealed no indications of the farmers resigning their protest. Many had come in advance to prepare food for the langar that would have to be setup the next day for the farmers, whom they expected to arrive at the border area in large numbers. They pitched tents for langar on the road sides, used logs of wood for fuel to make tea and fry pakoras. Men from the adjoining village of Dattasinghwala were busy chopping vegetables. Sukhwinder Singh from Galali village, near Khanauri, had brought in one hundred kilograms of cauliflower in his car. “In the village, we had already given the howka”—an announcement—“to request for milk.”