Thousands of commuters faced harassment in a sweltering weather as the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) members on Monday blocked the national highway near Ambala and four other highways in Haryana as part of their one-day ‘Road Roko Aandolan’ (road blockade protest). The police in Punjab and Haryana diverted traffic through longer routes and village roads, leading to chaos and confusion for the commuters moving from Punjab to Haryana, Delhi and beyond. The INLD activists started their blockade at five places around 10 a.m. and continued to block the highways till 3 p.m. “Our fight is for getting water for the farmers and people of Haryana through the SYL canal,” INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala told media. The harassed commuters were angry that they had to suffer due to the politics of leaders of Punjab and Haryana.
“We have been forced to suffer for hours in this heat. We don’t know when will we reach our destination. There is a death in the family and we were heading towards Kurukshetra (in Haryana) urgently. The political parties cannot make the common man suffer,” said Jagjit Singh, a resident of Sirhind in Punjab. Scores of INLD activists hoodwinked the Haryana Police and central security forces and blocked the NH-1 near Ambala, around 45 km from here. The protesters blocked the busy highway that links Delhi with Amritsar, at a point two km away from where they were originally supposed to stop the traffic from Punjab from entering Haryana at the Shambhu barrier. The activists came to the highway and blocked it with their vehicles, including cars and tractor trolleys. Traffic was also stopped near Dabwali town in Haryana’s Sirsa district.
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The INLD is seeking immediate construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal in Punjab to bring more water to Haryana. Hundreds of security personnel from central security forces and the Haryana Police were stationed at all five places along the states’ border in view of the INLD protest. Senior Haryana Police officers were stationed at the protest points since early on Monday. Haryana Police Additional Director General (ADGP) R.C. Mishra monitored the situation at the Shambhu barrier. Security personnel in riot gear, riot-control vehicles and other equipment were deployed at all points to maintain law and order. The vehicles were being stopped at five places — the Lalru-Chandigarh stretch on NH-1, Ambala-Shambhu border on NH-1, Narwana-Dhanauri border, Ratia-Budhlada road (Jakhal point) in Fatehabad district and Dabwali in Sirsa district.
Emergency vehicles, like ambulances, were exempted from the protest, the INLD leaders said. Authorities in Punjab decided not to send out buses from state-run companies to Haryana on Monday as a precautionary measure. The police were likely to divert traffic on some routes in the wake of the protest. A police officer in Ambala said that a case would be registered against the protesting INLD workers for blocking the national highway. The Supreme Court had earlier imposed a ban on blocking of national highways. “We will see the provisions and register a case against them (INLD activists) for blocking the national highway. They did not have the permission to block the highway,” the police officer said.