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‘Rail Roko’ protest by Indian farmers disrupts countrywide railway movement

Indian farmers protesting against the Centre’s three contentious agriculture laws have gathered at railway stations across the country and blocked train tracks as part of a four-hour nationwide ‘rail roko’ protest, in an attempt to pressurize the government to repeal the new agriculture laws.

The Railways deployed 20 additional companies of Railway Protection Special Force troops across the country ahead of the protest.

“I appeal to everyone to maintain peace. We will be liaisoning with district administrations and will have a control room in place,” Director General, Railway Protection Force, Arun Kumar said, adding that extra security measures are being taken in states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. “We want to persuade them to not cause inconvenience for passengers. We have a four-hour window and we want it (rail roko) to get over peacefully,” Kumar said.

The ‘rail roko’ protest was announced by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of farmer unions spearheading the agitations, last week. The railway blockade will be the third major demonstration by farmers, following the Republic Day tractor rally and the ‘chakka jam’ on February 6.

Jagtar Singh Bajwa, spokesperson of the Kisan Andolan Committee, Ghazipur border told local media that the ‘rail roko’ protest will be peaceful, adding that the agitating farmers will do what they can to avoid inconveniencing passengers. “We will carry out a peaceful protest in the nationwide Rail Roko program on February 18, from 12 pm to 4 pm. We`ll offer refreshments to passengers to avoid inconvenience,” he said.

Farmers’ rail roko agitation: No trains arrive in Narela post noon, cops guard station

The Narela railway station in Delhi was witness to an unusual sight on Thursday — hundred-odd police personnel and about 20 people dotted its platforms but none was expecting a train anytime soon. With farmers blocking tracks in different parts of Punjab and Haryana as part of their “rail roko” agitation against the Centre’s three farm laws, no train arrived at the Narela station post noon. According to a senior police officer, the trains scheduled to arrive at Narela were stopped by the protesting farmers in Haryana’s Sonepat.

“Jhelum Express passed the station in the morning, and no train arrived after that,” the police officer said. He added that approximately 100 personnel drawn from the local police and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) have been deployed at the railway station to respond to any eventuality during the agitation.

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Station Superintendent H S Tyagi said, “One train coming from Bathinda (in Punjab) that was scheduled to arrive here at 11:30 hours has been stopped somewhere before Sonepat, and other trains coming from Kurukshetra, Panipat and Ambala, will be affected. Things are expected to go back to normal after 4 pm when the farmers call off their rail roko event.”

He, however, said the “rail roko” has not affected passenger movement at Narela and the number of people arriving and departing the station was more or less similar. The Delhi Police on Thursday tightened security in several parts of the national capital, especially near railway tracks, in view of the “rail roko” (rail blockade) called by the farmer groups protesting against the Centre’s new farm laws.

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