To beat Internet ban, khaps turn to temple loudspeakers in Haryana

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As Haryana government extended the mobile internet suspension in state’s 17 districts for another day “to prevent any disturbance of peace and public order”, the farmers protesting against the agri laws hit upon an ingenious idea to bypass the ban. They have decided to use temple loudspeakers to make their voice heard and make messages reach all the villagers.

During a panchayat, leaders of 17 khaps of Jind district decided to form committees in each of the 306 villages in which they have influence to ensure quick reaction in case government makes any effort to forcibly remove protesters from dharna sites.

The panchayat was held at Khatkar toll plaza on Jind-Patiala highway in which a large number of women too participated.

The new strategy was formulated after the authorities made an abortive bid to remove farmers from Ghazipur border of Uttar Pradesh-Delhi Thursday night.

“If any such move is repeated anywhere, quick announcements will be made from the loudspeakers of village temples asking the farmers to gather. Not only this, thikri pehras will be undertaken by the farmers in villages to remain alert round the clock. We may plan blockage of roads, if the internet services are not restored early as the move is affecting online studies of students ahead of exams,” said Azad Palwa, leader of Dhadan khap of Jind district. Palwa is also Jind district president of the BKU. The agitators feel that internet services have been suspended to check the growing agitation of farmers in Haryana.

The khap leader further said, “The khaps have decided that nobody from 306 villages will invite BJP-JJP leaders in any events including marriage functions till the farmer agitation is going on and the government doesn’t repeal three farm laws.”

The farmers in various parts of the state have already announced a social boycott of BJP-JJP leaders to express their resentment against three controversial farm laws terming the same as “anti-farmer”.

“We have made it clear that no flag of any political party will be used during the farmers’ agitation. The farmers will either use Tricolour or flags of farmer unions during the agitation,” he added.

Meanwhile, sources in Kandela khap have hinted that farmer leader Rakesh Tikait will reach Kandela village of Jind district on February 3 to address farmers there. Farmers at Kandela village had blocked Jind-Chandigarh highway soon after the authorities had tried to evacuate the farmers from Ghazipur border where Tikait is leading the agitation.

On the other hand, the number of farmer protesters has suddenly increased at the toll plazas on national highways after the agitators smelled that the authorities may try to lift their dharnas. Apart from Khatkar toll plaza, a large number of farmers joined the protesters at Kitlana toll plaza too which is situated on Bhiwani-Mahendragarh national highway. The farmers had rushed to the toll plazas on Thursday night too when the authorities were planning to remove farmers from Ghazipur border.

Notably, the movement of farmers has increased to the borders of Delhi from Punjab and Haryana after the Ghazipur episode. For the entire day Saturday, movement of vehicles, including tractors, was observed on the Patiala-Jind-Rohtak-Delhi national highway.

Sources said a large number of farmers have rushed to Delhi borders in private vehicles, mainly cars and jeeps instead of tractor-trolleys. Tractor is a slow moving vehicle while the farmers want to join the protesters immediately with a feeling among them gaining ground that “different tactics” were being adopted to remove agitators from Delhi borders.

Internet suspended for another day

Haryana government Saturday extended the suspension of mobile internet services, all SMS services (excluding banking and mobile recharge) and all dongle services provided on mobile networks except the voice calls in 17 districts — Ambala, Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Kaithal, Panipat, Hisar, Jind, Rohtak, Bhiwani, Charkhi Dadri, Fatehabad, Rewari, Sirsa, Sonipat, Jhajjar and Palwal till 5 pm on January 31.

“This order is issued to prevent any disturbance of peace and public order in the jurisdiction of these districts of Haryana and shall be in force with immediate effect. Any person who will be found guilty of violation of aforesaid order will be liable for legal action under relevant provisions,” a government spokesperson said.

“The government has decided to impose this suspension to stop the spread of disinformation and rumours through various social media platforms and SMS, for facilitation and mobilisation of mobs of agitators and demonstrators who can cause serious loss of life and damage to public and private properties by indulging in arson or vandalism and other types of violent activities, the spokesperson added.

The opposition Congress hit out at the government’s decision to suspend mobile internet services.

In a statement, Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed the internet ban was ordered “with the intention to crush the farmers’ agitation” and demanded its immediate resumption.

He said the decision will affect professionals working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, students, traders and shopkeepers and cause inconvenience to the common people.

“The BJP-JJP government has been so engrossed in its evil designs to crush and discredit the farmers’ agitation that it seems to be least bothered about the grave inconvenience being caused to the common people,” he said.

“This government should not be under any illusion to treat the peacefully agitating farmers as a vulnerable lot and the persecution of farmers shall not be tolerated under any circumstances and the entire opposition and the people of the country are in rock solid support with the farmers,” he said.

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