Lucknow: In yet another case, the Uttar Pradesh Police on Tuesday booked vice-president of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Jayant Chaudhry along with 20 identified persons and over 6,000 others under the Epidemic Diseases Act for allegedly violating Covid-19 protocols by participating in a major farmers' 'mahapanchayat' in Aligarh district.
Around five to six thousand people attended the farmers' mahapanchayat in protest against three new central farm laws “where RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary also came and raised support for Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait in the event presided by Chaudhary Raj Singh,” the First Information Report (FIR) stated.
According to Aligarh police, the event was held amid Covid-19 pandemic with participants in attendance without face masks, not adhering to social distancing rules and in violation of CrPC Section 144 orders.
They were booked under sections 147 (rioting), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (unlawfully or negligence spreading infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Besides, section 3 of the Epidemic Disease Act was added on a complaint filed by a sub-inspector at the Gonda police station.
Expressing their apprehensions over legal notices being issued by district authorities, the RLD said that they had decided to hold a mahapanchayat also to see what action would be taken against thousands of people attending the gathering.
Attaching a news report about the FIR on around 5,000 people, Chaudhary on Thursday morning tweeted, “Baba can tell us when and where should I come to be arrested”, in a veiled reference to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
When Newsclick approached the RLD leader who is active on the ground while his party is organising a massive outreach programme in light of the ongoing farmers' agitation, he said, "The movement has to be continued with full strength and these FIR and notices to the farmers will turn out to be nails in the political coffin of the BJP in upcoming assembly elections."
Accusing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of making 'false promises' to the farmers, he further added, "In the name of development of farmers, the Modi government is helping his crony capitalist friends."
Mahapanchayats, Khap panchayats or village gatherings are being held in various parts of Uttar Pradesh against the backdrop of a call given by Bharatiya Kisan Union’s (BKU) Rakesh Tikait to strengthen the ongoing farmers’ agitation. On Tuesday, in Aligarh, the fifth such congregation in the region was organised where thousands of farmers turned up for a 'Kisan Mahapanchayat' despite the state government denying permission for the event and imposing Section 144 of the CrPC.
The two-month-long protest against the farm laws appeared to be losing steam after violence during a tractor parade by farmers on Republic Day in Delhi, but an emotional appeal by Rakesh Tikait gave it a fresh lease of life with thousands of farmers arriving at the Ghazipur protest site and the mahapanchayats from western UP extending support to the stir.
Commenting on the legal notices served to the farmers and leaders for attending meetings, BKU national spokesperson Rakesh Tikait told Newsclick, "First they sent IAS and nodal officers to persuade farmers so that they can not join protest; when it did not work, they started sending legal notices, booked people under Goondas Act, Epidemic Diseases Act, and now, nails being laid on roads to prevent farmers from joining the movement but it won't deter us.” Tikait added that the farmers will not settle for anything less than the repeal of the three farm laws as the protests at the Delhi borders have turned into a historical movement.
It must be noted that this is not the first time when the UP Police have booked farmers or farmer leaders for speaking up against the farm laws. Earlier, Newsclick has reported that after a major mahapanchayat was held in Muzaffarnagar district in western Uttar Pradesh, at least 200 farmers linked to the farmers’ protests against the Farm Laws received notices asking them to sign personal bonds worth Rs 2 lakh to “ensure peace”. The administration has said that these bonds were being filled out to ensure peace in the panchayat and that if there was any loss of public property, it could be recovered from the leaders.
Meanwhile, UP Police in Sikandarpur area of Ballia district and different parts of the state, including Varanasi and Mirzapur, have issued notices to over 200 tractor owners for participating in the tractor parade on January 26.