Damaged property, business loss bear testimony to farmers’ protest

New Delhi, Nov 20 (Inditop.com) Sugarcane stems and broken dustbins at Janpath market in the heart of the capital Friday bore testimony to the vandalism by farmers, a day after nearly 30,000 of them descended here from Uttar Pradesh to protest the new sugarcane pricing policy.

The nearby Jantar Mantar, an 18th century scientific observatory near Janpath, also bore telltale marks of Thursday’s chaos. According to an official at the venue, there was bedlam at the tourist spot.

“It was sheer hooliganism. The farmers threatened us and forcefully came inside the observatory and did whatever they pleased. The stink is still obvious,” the official said. “A cleanup has been done, but you can still see sugarcane stems on the ground.”

Traders at Janpath, one of the best known markets in the the capital, said the vandalism by the farmers was so bad that they had to close down their shops by 2 p.m. Thursday.

“It was shocking. Since Janpath is so close to Jantar Mantar, where a number of protests take place, protests are not new to us. But yesterday these farmers not only broke public property but also misbehaved with us and forced us to close down barely three or four hours after we had opened shop,” said Satpal Bhatia, owner of the Prabhat leather goods shop.

“While a few reopened their shops in the evening, most of us remained closed for fear that the protestors may cause more mayhem. Just five shops suffered a loss of Rs.50,000 yesterday,” Bhatia told Inditop.

On Friday morning when the shopkeepers pulled up the shutters and started getting ready for the day, there was a sense of insecurity.

“We saw the protestors camping near Jantar Mantar today and are a little wary of what they may be upto today. I asked one or two of them and they said yesterday’s incident will not be repeated,” said Raju, a shopkeeper, while pulling out jackets from cartons and routinely hanging them up for display.

“We are a little worried. But business has to go on.”

According Rajiv Sharma, another shopkeeper who sells junk jewellery in the market, some protestors looted his shop and demanded food for free from the eateries.

“At around 2 p.m. some farmers came to the intersection near McDonald’s and started drinking. Then they threw their bottles on the road and started harassing women. A few came to my shop and snatched jewellery. When I tried stopping them, they threatened to beat me up,” Sharma told IANS.

“Rising prices are an issue we are all familiar with. Don’t we have to pay so much more for even the basic grains and cereals? But that doesn’t mean you go about destroying public property and loot shops! Not one of us feel any sympathy for these goons now,” Sharma said.

The shopkeepers also complained of police inaction.

“The most shocking thing was that despite more than 100 policemen on duty here, no action was taken against the protestors. Electric poles, road signs, flower pots were broken, dustbins overturned, women teased, shops closed forcibly and the police simply did nothing despite being called for help,” Bhatia said.

Police officials standing near Parliament Street Friday claimed that some of the accounts of damage were “exaggerated” and they had dispersed protestors trying to destroy public property.

But Anubha Dey, a college student who was witness to the hooliganism, said people would not dare to do something like this anywhere else in the world.

“You come to protest for a cause and instead earn the ire of people. What is actually surprising is that just anyone can come here and destroy whatever they want right under the nose of the police. If this can happen in the capital, what can we say about the rest of the country?” she asked.