A large group of farmers are camping outside the mini-secretariat in Karnal — the constituency represented by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in the Haryana Vidhan Sabha. They are firm on their demand for action against IAS officer Ayush Sinha, who had ordered a police lathi-charge on a group of protesting farmers last month.
The Indian Express explains what the scenario means for the BJP-JJP alliance government in Haryana, especially CM Khattar.
Despite police and state government adopting all measures — imposing Section 144 CrPC, switching off the mobile internet services, deploying Rapid Action Force and putting up a number of check posts and nakas — the farmers managed to reach the district headquarters and have laid siege to the mini-secretariat.
A senior BJP leader, requesting not to be named, told The Indian Express, “It is a huge embarrassment for the state government. How can the CM’s own constituency be taken to ransom? It shows that the government is losing control. Government is run with tact. It has to be in command and in control of every such situation. It appears as if the government is on the backfoot now. It is the government’s job, the political process to engage in conversation, find ways to pacify the agitators. However, no such thing seems happening here. From the government’s side, bureaucrats are holding talks with the farmers. It should have been done by the senior ministers, MPs, or MLAs. But, they don’t have the face to go there since they had been calling names to farmers”.
Another senior BJP leader added, “Such a situation is not only chaotic for the government’s functioning, but also extremely damaging for the party, which won with huge mandate for the first time, could not retain the numbers in the second election and was forced to enter into an alliance. Government should not and must not annoy the common people. We got to know that general public gave food to the farmers who have camped outside mini-secretariat. It is extremely unfortunate, both for the CM and for the state government”.
Another senior BJP leader added, “Those who are taking the ongoing farmers’ agitation casually, are only fooling themselves. A farmer is a large-hearted person. If made happy, he will give anything that you want, but will not tolerate any force used on him”.
It all began on August 28 when farmers were assaulted in a police lathicharge at Bastara toll plaza on national highway in Karnal as they tried to move towards Karnal city where BJP leaders, including CM Manohar Lal Khattar, were holding a meeting to discuss upcoming panchayat polls. At another police naka, IAS officer Ayush Sinha, then posted as sub-divisional magistrate, Karnal, was caught on tape asking the police personnel to “break the heads” of those who made their way past the blockade. The officer had later claimed that “the video clip was doctored” and “only a selected portion of his briefing to the police personnel was made viral”. Subsequent to the police lathicharge, a farmer Sushil Kajal died at his home. Farmers claim that he died due to assault injuries. Subsequently, farmers started demanding suspension of the IAS officer, registration of criminal case against him and other police officers responsible for the lathicharge, Rs 25 lakh financial compensation and government job to Sushil Kajal’s kin, and Rs 2 lakh each to those who sustained injuries in the police lathicharge. They announced that if their demands were not met, they will gherao mini-secretariat in Karnal, which they eventually did.
Karnal, being the CM’s constituency, holds vital importance in state politics. This is not the first time when police have assaulted farmers in Karnal. Earlier, in January this year, farmers did not let Khattar’s helicopter land in Kaimla village. Sensing trouble, Khattar had to cancel his scheduled visit to the village and instead landed at another spot. State BJP president Om Prakash Dhankar, Education Minister Kanwar Pal and Sports Minister Sandeep Singh besides several BJP MLAs had to be escorted out of the venue under heavy police cover. Farmers damaged the helipad and vandalised the venue resulting in clash with the police. Several farmers sustained injuries in the incident. In May again, farmers were assaulted by the police when they tried to disrupt Khattar’s event in Hisar where he was inaugurating Covid-19 facility in OP Jindal School. In December 2020, Khattar’s convoy was attacked by a group of farmers in Ambala. The August 28 Bastara toll plaza incident is the fourth such where farmers were assaulted when they tried to disrupt Khattar’s events. The anger among the farmers is simmering against the chief minister, despite the state government making several announcements claiming them to be in the interest and welfare of farmers.
The main opposition Indian National Congress is trying its best to capitalise on the ongoing situation. Led by former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Congress is going full throttle slamming the BJP-JJP dispensation in Haryana on the issue of farmers’ agitation. It has has announced full support to the farmers and the agitation against the three central agri laws. BJP and JJP had also been accusing Congress of instigating farmers for protests, which also is turning out in the opposition party’s favour. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), on the other hand, although not left with any existence in Vidhan Sabha after its lone MLA Abhay Chautala resigned in support of farmers, is also gaining traction in rural areas, especially with party supremo Om Prakash Chautala now extensively touring the state and campaigning against the state government. The INLD, in fact, is eying to make a comeback through the upcoming panchayat polls. “I had been saying that talks are the only solution to move forward. The CM and state government should act as an envoy of farmers and take up their legitimate demands with the union government. But, they are busy assaulting farmers and trying to suppress their voice. Not only farmers, but people from all walks of life have lost its faith in this government,” says Hooda.
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