Thousands of farmers from Karnal and neighbouring districts laid siege to Mini Secretariat in the city after a non-committal administration failed to assure farmers over fulfilment of their demands. The enraged farmers have been demanding the suspension of SDM Ayush Sinha and registration of an FIR under Section 302 of the Indian penal code. Singh had asked his police officers to “break the heads” of protesters on August 28 last month when they were protesting against Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The administration had also lathi-charged the protesters, leading to the death of a farmer Sushil Kajal and many others sustaining injuries. The farmers’ organisations have also been demanding a compensation of Rs 25 Lakh and a government job to the family member of the victim, and a compensation of Rs 2 Lakh to the injured farmers.
As the farmers poured in the new Anaj Mandi in Karnal, the farmers’ leaders informed the gathering that they have been invited for talks with the district administration and the final decision would be taken after the meeting. However, farmers concurred that they would not pose a law and order challenge while remaining committed to their demands.
In a highly charged atmosphere, a conversation with farmers suggests that a distrust runs deeper after a series of confrontations with the state government in recent months. Farmers have already locked horns with the state government in Fatehabad, Hisar and Sirsa in previous months over a slew of issues.
Savarna Singh Numberdar, who travelled from Sulakhani in Haryana’s Sahabad, told NewsClick that he no longer believes in the promises of the CM and his government. He said, ”We never expected that the situation would deteriorate this much and we will have to hit the streets so frequently.” When asked what was his reaction when he first saw the visuals of the lathi charge, he said, ”It felt bad. Why they were beaten so mercilessly when things could have been resolved with talks? Farmers did not pick up arms.”
Numberdar said that joining the protest against three central farm laws was his last resort to save his land. “If the contract farming comes into effect, we would not be owners of the land for long. The government is not generating enough job opportunities. The Prime Minister had promised that farm incomes would double by 2022. We are only three months away from the timeline. Have our incomes doubled? They have deployed a large number of policemen and paramilitary forces here. Does not it cost money? They could have used it for generating employment. In this scenario, I dread the day when my children would say that we did not leave any land for them. How will they feed their families?”
A lady protester who came from Kaithal told NewsClick that they remain steadfast in their demands and would not go home till they are fulfilled. She said, ”We want to see how much space does Narendra Modi have in jails for us.”
Sooner, the gathering was informed by senior leader Balbir Singh Rajewal of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) - a collective of farmers’ unions -that the talks remained inconclusive and farmers will gherao the mini secretariat. Rajewal said that the administration kept defending the official and his criminal conduct. “We asked them categorically thrice if they are registering the FIR against the culprit official. They kept saying that his words were inappropriate. This cannot be base for any talks. If they remain adamant, we are also committed to our cause. We will gherao the mini secretariat.”
Police later detained and released the leadership of the morcha including Rakesh Tikait, Balbir Singh Rajewal, Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Vikash Shishar, Inderjit Singh, among others.
Inderjit Singh, veteran farmers’ leader from All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) told NewsClick that the administration is defending the indefensible with illogical arguments. He said, ”Even a child would be able to tell that what the official did was against the services rules and the constitution, and he cannot be defended. We are not asking for the moon if a victim family is demanding a compensation of Rs 25 lakh and a government job and compensation of Rs 2 Lakh for injured persons. The farmers want resolution but it is the administration which is delaying it.”
The morcha, in a statement, said, ”Haryana administration imposed Section 144 in Karnal, and suspended internet and SMS services in five districts. A troop of 40 companies of security forces, including 10 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) were stationed in Karnal. The anxiety of the government already proves the might of the farm movement. Farmers stand determined and resolute, and the government cannot get away with the murder. We stand firmly behind the protest and condemn the actions of the Haryana government. Farmers will teach CM Manohar Lal Khattar a lesson.”
Meanwhile, preparations for the Bharat Bandh, to be held on September 27, are in full swing. Preparatory meetings are being held across the country. In Bihar, farm unions will hold a convention in Patna on September 11. In Madhya Pradesh, all preparatory meetings will be completed by September 10, after which the farm unions will hold assemblies to garner support for the Bandh. In Uttar Pradesh, the SKM meet will be held in Lucknow on September 9 for SKM’s Mission Uttar Pradesh programme.