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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Day after Rewari clash, uneasy calm, protesters say 10-15 injured

Speaking to The Indian Express, Gurjeet Singh, a farmer from Ganganagar in Rajasthan said, “When we had first broken through the barricades at the Haryana-Rajasthan border last Thursday, I had sustained minor cuts and bruises as police fired tear gas and water cannons."

Written by Sakshi Dayal | Gurgaon | January 5, 2021 5:35:13 am
Farmers protest, farm law, Rewari clash, Haryana police, tear gas shells, Indian express newsThe protesters are camped near Masani village on NH-48 in Rewari. (PHoto: Praveen Khanna)

A day after Haryana police fired teargas shells to stop around 400 farmers from moving towards Delhi, protesters claimed “10 to 15” of them had sustained minor injuries. On Sunday, police personnel and protesters had clashed beneath the Sabi Pul near Masani village on National Highway 48 in Rewari — the second such incident in a week.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Gurjeet Singh, a farmer from Ganganagar in Rajasthan, who sustained a head injury when a tear gas shell allegedly landed near him, said, “When we had first broken through the barricades at the Haryana-Rajasthan border last Thursday, I had sustained minor cuts and bruises as police fired tear gas and water cannons. However, things were much worse on Sunday.”

At the Sabi Pul Monday afternoon, hundreds of police personnel remained deployed for the fifth day in a row. Abhishek Jorwal, SP Rewari, said: “We had to use between 100-150 tear gas shells yesterday to control the situation, but things have remained peaceful today. Around 500-600 personnel have been deployed in the area as of now. Some protesters tried to push through this morning but we calmed them down. We are prepared and, further down the highway, Gurgaon Police is prepared as well.”

Protesters said the fear of their ration being damaged is also stopping them from making another attempt to march to Delhi. They claimed one truck had caught fire on Sunday evening, when a tear gas shell landed inside it. The vehicle, which contained two gas cylinders, a motorcycle, and bedding, was amongst the first to approach the bridge on Sunday.

“We managed to remove the motorcycle and cylinders but several blankets and mattresses were gutted. Another concern with police firing tear gas shells is of the cylinders bursting. We are risking our lives for this cause,” said Avatar Singh, a farmer from Hanumangarh.

Although the Samyukt Kisan Morcha — the umbrella body of farmer unions protesting at Delhi’s borders — had not directed protesters at the Haryana-Rajasthan border to move forward, a group had broken through the barricades last Thursday, with 50 more joining them on Sunday.

Said Javed Khan, a farmer from Sri Ganganagar, “Leaders of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha had said to wait at the border until the numbers built up and then move forward. On Thursday, we felt this had happened… We had been waiting since December 14…. Our aim is to move to Delhi, not to stop several kilometres away. However, leaders have appealed to us to stay put for now, so we are following their directions.”

Reacting to the incident, AAP’s Punjab unit co-incharge Raghav Chadha compared Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar to British General Reginald Dyer. “I was reminded of April 13, 1919, when General Dyer ordered opening fire on innocent group of people who had congregated at Jallianwala Bagh,” he said.

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee also criticised the clampdown by the state government and warned of “escalation of anger amongst the people” and “intensification of the movement” if it continues.

In a press note on Monday, AIKSCC stated, “The Working Group of AIKSCC has criticised the state government for letting loose severe repression on protesting farmers…”

Rohtash Singh (83) from Hisar added, “The behaviour of the police has been very disappointing. We are protesting peacefully, we made our own arrangements for everything, put our money and time into this cause…”

‘Determined to stay’

Meanwhile, as farmers went about their routines — hanging clothes to dry by the side of trucks, preparing evening meals and bathing in the open — the first drops of rain fell around 4 pm. While some rushed inside trucks covered with plastic sheets, others hunched beneath the vehicles for shelter.

“Our clothes, our bedding, everything is getting wet repeatedly, but these are all minor obstacles,” said Pushpender Singh, a farmer from Hanumangarh.

“The rain is also a blessing, because it means our crops are looked after even while we are here protesting for our livelihood,” he said.

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