Updated: September 3, 2021 4:22:36 am
HUNDREDS OF farmers broke barricades and clashed with the police on Thursday outside the ‘Gal Punjab Di’ rally venue of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, at New Grain Mandi of Moga, leaving at least 67 people injured, and a trail of smashed vehicles behind.
The farmer unions claimed that police resorted to a brutal lathicharge to push back the crowd, injuring at least 60 protesters in the process, including the elderly. The police, however, denied the claim and stated that the protesters resorted to stone-pelting first, leaving at least seven cops, including DSP Gurdeep Singh, injured.
The protesting farmers said that the stone-pelting was started by Akali Dal workers, including members of the Students Organization of India (SOI)- the students’ wing of Akali Dal, who according to the farmers, were ‘helping’ police in stopping protesters from moving towards the rally venue.
On Thursday, trouble started before Sukhbir Badal was scheduled to reach Moga as part of his 100-day ‘Gal Punjab Di’ poll outreach programme. Sukhbir has been facing persistent protests by farmers over his party’s stand on three contentious farm laws and has on occasions dubbed the agitation against him as being sponsored by the Opposition parties – the Congress and the AAP.
Ahead of Sukhbir’s arrival on Thursday, protesting farmers from Kirti Kisan Union, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Krantikari), and those from the Naujawan Bharat Sabha blocked the road and tried to enter the grain market by breaking the police barricades with tractors and then started stone pelting, police claimed.
As per the copy of the FIR registered by the police – a copy of which The Indian Express has seen – at least 17 people, including Baldev Singh Zira, general secretary, BKU (Krantikari) and Karamjit Singh, an activist of Naujawan Bharat Sabha, have been booked under several sections of IPC, including attempt to murder.
Eyewitnesses said that at least a dozen vehicles parked near the spot were vandalised during the stone-pelting.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Baldev Singh Zira, state general secretary, BKU (Krantikari), said that they were protesting peacefully when suddenly stone pelting was started by SAD workers who were trying to stop farmers from reaching the rally venue. He further said that at least 60 of their activists have been injured, including 12 who have sustained major injuries in a brutal lathicharge by the police.
“The farmers did not start stone pelting or initiate any violence. SAD workers who came in vehicles – that had SOI stickers on them – started the stone-pelting and clashed with the police. Then police resorted to lathicharge us and at least 60 of our farmers have been injured,” Zira said. He said that on Friday, farmers will take out a protest march in Moga city against police brutality and lathicharge.
Zida said that at least 12 protesting farmers were also detained by the police but were later released only after the farmers staged a protest outside the DC’s office.
Karamjit Singh from Naujawan Bharat Sabha, meanwhile, alleged that some cops on duty indulged in stone-pelting on protesting farmers. “The SAD and SOI workers started stone pelting on us and instead of stopping them, the police supported them. There are videos in which cops can be seen throwing stones at protesters. After the entire melee, police detained 12-13 protesting farmers and took them to the police station along with their tractors. We got them released after sitting on a protest outside the DC office,” Karamjit said.
Moga SSP, Dhruman Nimbale, on the other hand, claimed that an FIR was registered against protesters who turned violent, attacked police with stones, and have been identified with the help of videos of the incident that went viral on social media.
Speaking to The Indian Express, SSP Nimbale said, “Despite our repeated appeals to keep their protest peaceful, farmer unions and activists restored to violence today at New Grain market. They broke police barricades with tractors, manhandled cops on duty and pelted stones. Police vehicles as well as those belonging to locals were vandalised. At least seven policemen, including DSP Gurdeep Singh and inspector Tarlochan Singh, have been injured in the stone pelting. We have filed FIR against 17 people that includes farm union leaders like Baldev Singh Zira, Karamjit Singh and others. We are identifying those who created violence using videos from the spot.”
The FIR has been registered on the complaint of inspector Tarlochan Singh against Baldev Singh Zira (BKU-Krantikari), Chamkaur Singh Rode (Kirti Kisan Union), Karamjit Singh (Naujawan Bharat Sabha) and 14 others, under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 333, 332, 353, 186, 148, 149, 120-B of IPC, section 8B National Highway Act and sections 3 & 4 of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, at Moga city police station.
Chamkaur Singh Rode, vice president of Kirti Kisan Union, too stated that the stone pelting was started by Akali workers not protesting farmers. “The SOI and SAD workers started stone pelting. Police have added names in the FIR on their own without checking the facts. At least 60 of our farmers have sustained injuries in the police lathicharge.”
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