Angry farmers have blocked multiple roads across Haryana to protest “brutal” police action against fellow farmers in neighbouring Karnal district, as they were protesting a meeting led by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to discuss a forthcoming municipal election.
The protests affected traffic on major roads and highways, including NH3 and the Delhi-Amritsar highway, and led to a jam at the Shambhu toll plaza leading to Ambala.
Visuals show farmers sitting on khatiyas, or a bamboo bed, and standing, or sitting, in large groups across the road, with cars, buses and trucks backed up for at least three kilometres.
Other visuals show two policemen in riot gear arguing with a man who seems to be badly wounded; there is blood on his shirt and his left leg, and a bloody bandage is tied around his head.
A third video shows a large contingent of riot police gathered on the highway.
The farmers are protesting a lathi charge on farmers in Karnal; the farmers there were charged down by the police after they tried to stop state BJP chief OP Dhankar’s convoy.
Mr Dhankar was going to the state-level meet of BJP leaders and elected reps in Karnal. As his convoy exited the Bastara toll plaza (between Karnal and Panipat), farmers allegedly hit the cars with sticks. Reports say the farmers tried to reach that meeting, which was being held about 30 kilometres away.
The police responded with a lathi charge that left several farmers injured; videos circulating on social media showed many people with bloody shirts and bandages.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha – the umbrella body under which many farmer groups have united to protest the farm laws – slammed the police for their “brutal” actions.
The opposition Congress has slammed the ruling BJP government in Haryana, accusing Chief Minister Khattar and his administration of orchestrating violence against the farmers.
“What happened to our farmers in Karnal is a matter of great concern… the Congress party condemns this attack in the strongest possible language. What you saw today was evidence of the BJP’s disregard for farmers and their safety…” Kumari Selja, chief of the party’s state unit, said.
Ms Selja referred to a video that has been shared widely, in which Ayush Sinha, the District Magistrate of Karnal, can be heard telling police to “break their (the farmers) head”.
” The Congress has always, and will always, support our farmers, who were never mistreated when we were in power. Now the District Magistrate is telling police to ‘break their heads’… is this democracy? The way the BJP and Khattar government have treated people… Haryana will not tolerate,” she said.
Protests on major roads and highways – including the protest by thousands of farmers camped out around the Delhi border for nine months now – have been criticised for affecting vehicular traffic.
On Monday the Supreme Court, responding to a PIL by a resident in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida, pulled up the Haryana government (as well as its UP counterpart and the centre) over roads in the national capital region that continue to be blocked.
“You (the centre and the UP and Haryana governments ) have to find a solution”, the court said, while also warning the three to respect farmers’ right to protest.
In June too Haryana farmers and police clashed; that was after an MLA made abusive comments during a spat with protesting farmers in the town of Tohana.
Angry farmers surrounded his vehicle and, the following day, his home. Several were arrested and multiple FIRs were registered, including one for manhandling the MLA, Devendra Babli of the JJP.
The three farm laws have triggered widespread and furious protests from farmers; they say the laws will rob them of guaranteed prices for their crops and leave them at the mercy of corporate interests. The government, however, has insisted the laws will benefit farmers.
Several rounds of talks have been held but no resolution is in sight, with the government unwilling to scrap the laws (one of the farmers’ demands) and the farmers standing firm.
A central panel last met farmers’ leaders on January 22. There have been no talks since January 26, when a tractor rally in the national capital turned violent.