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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Farmers on Khattar turf, reach Karnal for sit-in

The farmer leaders said the gherao will continue till their demands are met. Late on Tuesday, the administration extended the suspension of mobile Internet services in Karnal for another day.

Written by Sukhbir Siwach | Karnal |
September 8, 2021 11:55:42 am
Farmer leaders had called a mahapanchayat in Karnal to protest against the August 28 police crackdown on protesters, who were agitating against the Farmers in Khattar turf, reach Karnal for sit-in three farm laws, at Bastara toll plaza in Karnal. (Representational)

AFTER talks with the administration failed, thousands of farmers started a gherao of the mini-Secretariat in Karnal, the constituency of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Tuesday evening, managing to reach it crossing six heavily manned police barricades.

Farmer leaders had called a mahapanchayat in Karnal to protest against the August 28 police crackdown on protesters, who were agitating against the Farmers in Khattar turf, reach Karnal for sit-in three farm laws, at Bastara toll plaza in Karnal. They proceeded to the mini-Secretariat after the government refused to accede to their demands.

As night descended, the protesters settled in, with langars being held by gurdwaras nearby. The farmer leaders said the gherao will continue till their demands are met. Late on Tuesday, the administration extended the suspension of mobile Internet services in Karnal for another day.

Tuesday’s rally in Karnal came two days after the huge mahapanchayat in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar by farmers against the new laws. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), that is spearheading the protest against the laws, claimed over two lakh farmers were part of the mahapanchayat.

For the Karnal rally, the farmer leaders had put forth three demands — Rs 25 lakh compensation to a farmer who allegedly died of injuries sustained in the August 28 lathicharge at Bastara and a government job to his kin (the government has denied any death due to the lathicharge); Rs 2 lakh each to those who sustained injuries in the lathicharge; and the registration of a criminal case and stern action against Karnal SDM Ayush Sinha and police personnel responsible for the lathicharge.

But the district administration turned down the demands, seeking a month to probe if Sinha’s remarks — saying “break the heads” of those who made their way past a blockade — actually led to the lathicharge. Sinha has since been transferred out. The farmers, who had gathered at Karnal’s Anaj Mandi, then proceeded with their threat to gherao the mini-Secretariat, covering the 5 km distance on foot.

The forces deployed water cannons at the last barricade near the complex, but the farmers jumped over it. There was no other serious confrontation with police along the way.

Three rounds of talks took place between the farmers’ delegation and the district administration before the sit-in began. Senior SKM leaders, including the BKU’s Rakesh Tikait, Yogendra Yadav, Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Balbir Singh Rajewal and Darshan Pal, were part of the 11-member farmers’ delegation. Karnal Deputy Commissioner N K Yadav and senior police officers were present on the other side.

Announcing in the evening that the talks had failed, Rajewal said farmers will not break any barricades or indulge in any law and order disruption but continue with their decision to gherao the mini-Secretariat. Farmer leaders, including Yadav and Tikait, were briefly detained.

Tikait said the state government was not listening to the farmers. “The Khattar government should agree to our demands or else arrest us. We are ready to fill Haryana jails,” he tweeted.

Karnal Dy Commissioner Yadav said “every effort was made to satisfy the protesters”, including holding talks with them for three hours. A government spokesperson said Yadav, IGP Mamta Singh, SP Gangaram Punia and other senior officers are continuing talks with the protesters for “some positive solution”.

Farmers started making their way to Karnal Tuesday morning, from across Haryana and neighbouring states. The administration had imposed Section 144 to prevent gatherings and restricted Internet and SMS services in Karnal and several neighbouring districts. Police had also announced traffic diversions. While farmers blocked several highways in Karnal, Jind and Fatehabad, traffic on NH-44 (Ambala-New Delhi stretch) continued without any diversions. To block the farmers, who were moving in their tractors-trolleys, police parked truck trailers at several places, but the protesters made their way past all.

Earlier in the day, the Karnal district administration issued a warning that intelligence reports indicated that some elements armed with lathis and iron rods had entered the Anaj Mandi gathering, and had ignored appeals of farmer leaders to leave. It warned that action would be taken against any such elements.

Tikait, Yadav and Chaduni also kept issuing appeals to the gathering not to allow anybody to carry any weapon while marching towards the mini-Secretariat. However, a large number of protesters were seen carrying lathis.

While Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij appealed to the farmers not to indulge in any violence but continue their protest peacefully, Agriculture Minister J P Dalal said there was no need for the agitation. He also accused Chaduni, the main farmer leader in the state, of taking “extortion money from the Congress to create continuous chaos in Haryana”. “They will continue this until some innocent farmers die.”

In a press release, the SKM said it was already preparing for its September 27 Bharat Bandh, with meetings across the country. It also announced a meeting on Wednesday in Lucknow, and protests against the Punjab government over “frivolous” charges from Thursday.

It said the measures taken by the Haryana government, including the heavy deployment of forces, “already proves the might of the farm movement”. “Farmers will teach CM Manohar Lal Khattar a lesson,” the SKM added.

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