In another crackdown on protestors, on the pretext of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Panchkula administration lodged an FIR against the farmers who had held a peaceful sit-in protest near Mauli village in Panchkula, after they were stopped from leaving the district to reach Pipli.
Responding to the calls to participate in the Kisan Bachao-Mandi Bacho rally being held at Pipli– where farmers of Haryana had gathered to present their demands and mark their dissent against the “unjust” schemes of the government– as hundreds of farmers from Panchkula and the neighbouring regions were on their way to the Pipli protest site, they were stopped by the police at Barwala.
Blockades were put up near Mauli village’s bus stop on the National Highway 7 to halt the farmers. A large number of policemen along with senior district officials were also deployed in the area.
The union leaders and farmers, finding no other option to register their dissent and grievances, staged a sit-in protest on the spot. The protest had remained peaceful and the farmers had started to retreat to their homes by 5 pm.
Despite this, at least 10 farmers, each head of their specific areas and villages were booked by the Panchkula police under several sections of the IPC, including sections 188 (punishment for disobedience to an order duly promulgated by a public servant), 269 and 270 (act likely to spread infection), along with section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act.
Farmer Narendar Singh of Nayagaon, who was unaware of the FIR filed against him, said, “First they do not let us exercise our right of freedom of free movement and dissent and then they book us under the pretext of the pandemic. Is the pandemic only for us and not for them? They had gathered in numbers higher than us. The pandemic does not stop the crucifixion of farmers, rather amplifies it. They want to crush our voices but we will not let that happen.”
The FIR filed by Rahul Kumar, incident commander of Raipurrani area states, said, “Under the leadership of 10 accused farmers, almost 200-250 men walked towards Pipli to protest and were stopped at Mauli bus stop. The farmers were protesting despite a ban on protests by the state government in view of the pandemic. Local police had also warned them against protesting, through a notice sent to them. The gathering might spread the disease further.”
City Magistrate Dheeraj Chahal, who was on the spot when contacted, said, “The protest was against the Covid-19 guidelines. The farmers had further defaulted on maintaining social distancing. They did not even seek permission before protesting.”
The Panchkula administration, citing an increase in number of cases, in the last week of August had issued orders mandating a complete ban on public gatherings and protests. The protest ground of Sector 5 was also closed off till further order.
The ban had come a day after the district witnessed widespread protests including one staged by Haryana’s ASHA workers, who had been agitating since August 7. Protests were also observed by members of the Congress party against the NEET-JEE exams, by the city’s construction workers demanding the government to pay their allowances and dues and by the members of the HSVP workers union, who were booked by the police department.
Meanwhile, the district administration was accused of following “double standards” as they booked the expelled PTI teachers for holding a protest on September 3, but let off the ABVP students who were protesting on the same day.
Sector 5 SHO, Inspector Lalit Kumar said, the protesting teachers were booked for “neglecting administrative order of ban on protests”, whereas, regarding the protest held by the ABVP members, he said, the station was “examining Lockdown 4.0 guidelines in the matter and will only file a case if justified.”
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