India

Defiant India protesters stand ground in Haryana

  • 22 February 2016
  • From the section India
Media captionSanjoy Majumder said protesters had created road blocks "effectively encircling Delhi"

It is 8am on the Bahadurgarh border on the west of Delhi. At this time, this busy road should be choked with traffic, but it is completely deserted.

Trucks are lined up along the edge of the road.

In the middle, a group of people are stretched out on rugs placed on the road, under a canopy. Some of the older men are pulling on a hookah.

They have been here for the past several days, not allowing any traffic through.

They are protesters from the Jat community who are demanding quotas in government jobs and educational institutes.

Groups of aggressive young men patrol the road, armed with sticks. Pedestrians are let through but nothing else.

'Unfair media'

"I need to get through - it's the first day of my new job at the next town, but they've turned me back," one frustrated young man tells me as he heads away on his motorcycle.

The protesters watch us warily, as we film some of the barricades.

"The media's been unfair to us," a couple of them mutter as they come closer. "You're only saying we're troublemakers when we are gathered peacefully here."

As I attempt to speak on camera, one man covers the lens with his hand.

"Speak to us first, hear us out, only then will we let you do your job," he says.

Image caption Protesters have been sitting in the middle of the road, not letting traffic through
Image copyright Manoj Dhaka
Image caption The army and riot police have been called in to quell the protests

"We've been here all these days but none of the politicians have come to meet us," says one protester, Sukhram Dhankar.

"The police have been needlessly provocative. They've used force. So many of us have been injured."

Even as he finishes speaking, a group of armed riot police turn up. As their officer calls out orders, they swiftly begin removing the trucks to clear the road.

The canopy is dismantled and the people asked to leave, but no one does.

The protesters simply sit down on the ground and begin chanting slogans as the police look on.

Within minutes, some men deflate the tyres of a few of the trucks still left in place to prevent them from being moved.

The police decide to retreat.

The canopy is swiftly put back up and more trucks are moved in to block the road as the protesters cheer.

Image copyright Manoj Dhaka
Image caption Protesters have burned shops and motorcycles

"We are not going to move," says one of them who refuses to tell me his name.

News that the government has offered concessions cuts little ice.

"We don't trust them. Let's get something in writing. Let them spell it out," he says.

We are on the edge of Delhi.

Much of the area around us was farmland about a decade ago. Now you can see tall buildings in some places, others are under construction.

"We are farmers," Sukhram Dhankar says. "But there is no land left for us to farm. It's taken over by developers. So we need government jobs."

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