The situation in Sirsa continues to remain volatile Saturday with thousands of protesters camping on the streets after the first round of talks between agitating farmers and the district administration failed.
The farmers are protesting FIR against 100 farmers and subsequent arrest of five of their men over sedition and attempt to murder charges over an attack on Haryana Vidhan Sabha’s deputy speaker Ranbir Gangwa’s car on July 11.
Sirsa Civil Lines Police Station SHO Ram Niwas had told The Indian Express that a fresh FIR was lodged on Wednesday on the complaint of ASI Prem Singh who had received injuries when the agitators hit him with their tractor on July 11.
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The 90-minute talk Saturday was initiated only after the protesters managed to break police barricades and started walking towards the headquarters of the district administration. After the talks failed, farmers blocked Sirsa’s one of the busiest roundabouts — Prajapati Chowk — and the Sirsa-Barnala highway.
Sirsa police chief Dr Arpit Jain also showed video footage of the July 11 incident but farmer leaders refused to believe it, leading to the failure of the talks.
Prominent farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said, “Police do not have any evidence. They have sent their own men to create law and order issues and want to pressurise farmers. We shall hold a morcha here in Sirsa as a part of our ongoing struggle.”
Another leader said, “The district administration can say whatever they wish to. Under no circumstance they should have imposed sedition charges on any of our members. The administration offered to constitute a Special Investigation Team but what will an SIT do? It is meaningless. They should withdraw the FIRs registered and release our brothers.”
He was echoed by a protester, who said, “This is a mere tactic of the state governments to prevent us from marching towards Parliament on July 22. They want to divert our attention by registering such false criminal cases against us.”
Meanwhile, security was beefed up around the residences of deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala and state power minister Ranjit Singh Chautala in Sirsa.
Jain said, “We have made adequate deployment. Over 10,000 personnel from across all districts of Haryana, Rapid Action Force and paramilitary forces have been deployed along with 30 checkpoints so that nobody disrupts law and order and attempts to break the law.”
Jain added, “We are always ready to hold talks with farmers. We had held a meeting with them (farmers) on Friday too but there can be only legal solutions to legal cases, otherwise, there is no purpose of holding talks.”
Farmers had started reaching Sirsa from Friday night and over 10,000 police personnel has been deployed to prevent them from reaching the Sirsa SP’s office, district police headquarters and the residences of the ministers.
Reacting to the protest in Sirsa, state home minister Anil Vij said, “A few days ago, the vehicle of the deputy speaker of Haryana Assembly was attacked by the farmers, after which, an FIR was registered against the accused. The law of this country is supreme and it doesn’t work on anyone’s behest or get influenced by dharnas and threats. The law functions at its own pace and such activities (protests/ dharnas) have no effect on the legal procedures.”
He added, “Besides this, a warning has also been issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the third wave of Covid-19 and the next 100 days are crucial. In such a situation, the decision of lifting the restrictions has been taken by the government, which is likely to be revised. We have given orders to all the district magistrates to constitute a committee of civil and police officers and keep an eye on the crowd and ensure that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are strictly adhered to.”
Earlier in the day, Tikait mocked chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and home minister Anil Vij and said, “The chief minister is roaming in Delhi so that he can avoid confrontation with us here. The home minister is trying hard to become the chief minister. That is the state of affairs of this government. They can continue making their efforts but should not provoke us. Our fight is not with them [state government]. We will inform them if we train our guns at them. We just want our farmers, who have been arrested, to be immediately released and cases registered against them be withdrawn.”
While addressing the farmers, Tikait said, “The state government should realise that they should not indulge in a fight with us. Our fight is with the Union government. State government should realise that when the Union government has failed to push farmers back, even they cannot succeed in doing so.”
Drawing a comparison between farmers and soldiers, Tikait added, “The farmer, when at the border to fight for the country’s honour, is called a soldier. The same soldier, when he comes back to his fields, drives his tractor. We shall compare our tractors to tanks. These tanks (tractors) will break all police barricades. The same soldier, when he sits on a computer, knows how to use Twitter. So, the state government shouldn’t underestimate us or instigate us. We shall set up pucca morchas and you all should have langar and stay firm.”