Thousands of farmers from various states gathered at the Jantar Mantar here on Monday to take part in a "mahapanchayat" called by a farmers' body, causing massive traffic snarls in Delhi, especially at the city's borders, including Singhu and Ghazipur.
As the farmers associated with different unions reached Delhi, police put up layers of barricades at all the entry points of the city and checked every vehicle entering the national capital, which led to huge traffic jams.
Apart from the borders, including Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri, key stretches on the Delhi-Meerut Expressway, the Palam flyover, Aurobindo Marg, Ring Road (near Indraprastha Park), the Ghaziabad-Wazirabad road and the Munirka road, among other roads, witnessed traffic snarls.
Other than Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, farmers from states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha and Kerala arrived in Delhi to take part in the "mahapanchayat" that was called demanding a legislation on the minimum support price (MSP) for crops, farm loan waiver and on other issues.
Many of them came with their bags packed and with an intent to stay put. Holding flags and wearing caps given by farmer leaders, they were seen sitting in and around Janpath.
They raised slogans for farmer unity and against the Centre for "not fulfilling" its promises.
Magha Nibori, a farmer from Punjab with one acre of farmland on which he cultivates seasonal crops, said he came here fully prepared to stay put, if required.
"We are poor farmers. Nobody is helping us. Nothing is being done for us. We participated in last year's (anti-farm laws) protests as well. The government had assured us that it will listen to our demands but nothing is being done. We will not hesitate to camp here, if required, to get our demands addressed," Nibori told PTI.
The heavy security measures led to massive traffic snarls across the city. Police also put up cemented barricades to avoid any untoward incident.
The traffic police informed the commuters about the traffic situation and advised them to plan their journeys accordingly.
"In view of a heightened security scenario and threat perception, some persons or protestors were stopped at the Ghazipur border. However, after due verifications, all of them were allowed to proceed to their respective destinations," Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) Priyanka Kashyap said.
In a tweet, police asked motorists to avoid Tolstoy Marg, Sansad Marg, Janpath Road, Ashoka Road, Connaught Place Outer Circle, Baba Kharak Singh Marg and Pandit Pant Marg due to the farmers' congregation.
SKM (non-political) leaders claimed that at some locations, farmers were being stopped from reaching Jantar Mantar. However, the Delhi Police denied the claim.
"This is a daylong peaceful event where we will reiterate our demands such as a legal guarantee on the MSP and the cancellation of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 among others," said Abhimanyu Singh Kohar, an SKM (non-political) member and one of the organisers of the "mahapanchayat".
He, however, added that police are yet to give permission for the "mahapanchayat" at the Jantar Mantar.
The SKM (non-political) is a breakaway group of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) that had spearheaded the year-long protests at Delhi's borders against three contentious farm laws of the Centre.
Kohar said farmers coming from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh were stopped on Sunday night and not allowed to reach the Jantar Mantar. They were taken to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, Rakabganj and Moti Bagh and released later, he said.
Kohar said during the anti-farm laws protests, the Centre had promised to consider all the demands of the farmers but did nothing.
"So here we are again to raise our demands and chalk out the future strategy of the movement," he added.
In November 2020, thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh had camped at Delhi's border points in protest against the three farm laws, which were repealed a year later.
The farmers had suspended their movement in December last year after the Centre assured them to consider their other demands concerning a legal guarantee on the MSP and withdrawal of cases against them, among others.
Mahendra Singh from Punjab, who had to undergo partial hand and finger amputation due to an accident a few years ago, said he has not received his pension for several months.
"I have come here from Gidder Pani in Punjab. My pension has not been credited for months and no official has any answer. The Centre is also not fulfilling our demands related to the MSP and other issues. I have come here to ask for my rights," he said.
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait was detained by the Delhi Police at the Ghazipur border on Sunday while he was trying to enter the capital to take part in a protest against unemployment at the Jantar Mantar.
Tikait had alleged that the Delhi Police was working at the behest of the BJP-led Centre and did not allow him to meet the unemployed youngsters.