As farmers in Haryana continued their agitation against three central Ordinances promulgated in June, the opposition Congress and INLD rallied to their support, while the state’s ruling BJP and JJP spoke in conflicting voices.
A day after farmers’ organisations led by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) blocked the national highway at Pipli in Kurukshetra and clashed with police, the protests’ leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni was booked in several cases. Chaduni remained defiant and promised to intensify the agitation if their demands were not met.
The protests have erupted ahead of Parliament’s Monsoon Session that begins on Monday, during which the three agriculture-related Ordinances promulgated on June 5 – The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 – are likely to be tabled.
The farmers’ anger is directed primarily against the first Ordinance, which has removed the monopoly of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis in the sale and purchase of crops, which they suspect is a precursor to the dismantling of the system of grain procurement by the government at assured minimum support prices (MSP).
Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij claimed that “no lathicharge took place anywhere” on the protesting farmers on Thursday. “There is no MLR (medico-legal report) and nobody received injuries. No orders were passed to use force on farmers,” he said on Friday.
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According to the Home Minister: “The police only wanted that the road should not be blocked at this time of the corona pandemic. Ambulances are moving with patients these days. Farmers have the right to present their version, but not to block roads.”
However, the BJP’s Lok Sabha MPs from Bhiwani-Mahendragarh and Hisar, Dharambir Singh and Brijendra Singh, came out in support of the farmers, and against the use of force by the police. Both these constituencies are dominated by farming communities.
“…The action of resorting to a lathicharge on the farmers without listening to their voice in a democratic country is condemnable”, Dharambir posted on Twitter. “It is the duty of the government to talk to the leaders of the Kisan Union to resolve the problem.”
Brijendra tweeted: “The episode during the agitation of farmers in Kurukshetra is painful. I believe the farming community has the right to raise their demands. The restrictions related to corona apply equally to all sections of society. I condemn the efforts to make an example of the farmers by lathicharging them.”
Both Dharambir and Brijendra – the son of former Union Minister Birender Singh and a former IAS officer – are members of a panel constituted by the BJP’s state chief Om Prakash Dhankar to pacify the farmers and hold talks. The BJP’s Kurukshetra MP Nayab Singh Saini is the third member of the panel.
But the BKU has rejected the constitution of this committee. “The three Ordinances are proposed to be turned into laws when Parliament meets from September 14. What report can this committee give in such a short time? If Dhankar and the BJP want to play it honestly, then these Ordinances should not be tabled in the coming Session,” Chaduni, the leader of the agitation and the BKU’s Haryana president, said.
On Thursday, Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) leader Digvijay Chautala, the younger brother of Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, had condemned the use of force on the farmers, and demanded an investigation.
The criticism from within has put Dushyant in a tight spot. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar himself is still camping in the PWD rest house in Gurgaon after being discharged from hospital where he had been admitted after contracting Covid-19.
Politicians cutting across party lines met the injured farmers in Pipli on Friday. Some of them assured Chaduni that he had their full support against the government. Protesters burnt effigies of Khattar and Dushyant at several places, and some farmers also protested outside Dushyant’s private residence in Sirsa.
“It is a conspiracy to weaken the powerful agitation of the farmers. Prepare your jails, we are ready to be arrested,” Chaduni said. He announced a timeline of escalation of the protests through next week – if the farmers’ demands were not met by September 14, there would be protests at all district headquarters, and on September 20, all roads in the state would be blocked.
“No matter how much force is used against us, we will not retaliate. But we will continue our agitation until our demands are met,” Chaduni said.
Haryana Police on Friday booked Chaduni and 300 unidentified people on charges of damaging public property, preventing government servants from performing their official duty, and violating prohibitory orders, besides various provisions under the National Highway Act and Disaster Management Act.
Police said the farmers has smashed the windows of a Fire Brigade vehicle and thrown stones at police.“Three FIRs have been registered against Gurnam Singh and several others. No arrests have been made yet,” Inspector Naresh Kumar, Station House Officer of Thanesar Sadar police station, said.
In another FIR has been filed against unidentified farmers on charges of attempt to murder, Shahbad Markanda police station in-charge Inspector Devinder Kumar, said.
Former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said: “Under no circumstances will these three Ordinances be allowed to be implemented, unless the government brings in a fourth Ordinance which ensures MSP at Swaminathan’s C2 formula.”
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala met Chaduni in Pipli, but described it as a “social meeting”.
The INLD’s Abhay Chautala said: “These ordinances are nothing but death warrants of farmers.”
BJP rebel and Independent MLA from Meham, Balraj Kundu, who met injured farmers in Pipli, said: “I am a farmer’s son and shall fight for the cause of farmers till my last breath.”
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