Images of policemen hurling stones and an elderly woman protester profusely bleeding from the head showed the intensity of the protests and violence by police officials when farmers gathered at the Chaudhary Devi Lal Sanjivani Hospital in Hisar to protest against the visit of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday.
Farmers’ organisations had called for protests against the visits of CM Khattar and his ally, deputy CM Dushyant Chautala, in the state to express their anguish against the three Farm Laws. Farmers reportedly commenced their protest at Mayar toll plaza and broke the first barricade at the canal bridge, and later at Jindal overbridge. As they moved towards the venue the police officials resorted to lathi-charge, tear-gas shelling and stone pelting. A total of 20 police officials, including five women constables, sustained injuries in action, the state police claimed.
The incident elicited sharp reactions from farmers’ leaders who condemned the action after meeting with the injured farmers. Gurnam Singh Chaduni, president, Samyukta Kisan Morcha, Haryana – a collective of farmers' unions in the state – said that the CM was deliberately provoking the farmers by attending ceremonies during the pandemic. The CM was there to inaugurate the hospital.
"Why is he inaugurating facilities physically when almost every activity has been banned in the state? He very well knows that farmers have been peacefully protesting at Delhi's borders for six months now. We have lost 450 of our brethren at the protest sites. Still, he continues to roam from one place to another and provokes the farmers by issuing senseless statements. We are ready to die. We will face their bullets and batons but will not allow them to enter our villages,” he said. Chaduni was referring to a recent statement made by Khattar in which he alleged farmers travelling from protest sites to villages were prime carriers of the novel coronavirus.
In an emergency meeting the unions decided that the farmers would block the state and national highways between 5 pm and 7 pm and seek an answer from Hisar Inspector General Rakesh Kumar Arya by gheraoing his house. Responding to the violence, veteran farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said: "It is shameful that the farmers have been beaten up so brutally. When you have not been listening to them for such a long time, what is a common farmer to do? He can only protest by waving black flags. They are still deploying all the force they can muster to quash their anger. This will not be tolerated. We have already called for blocking highways in Uttar Pradesh too.”
Inderjit Singh from the All India Kisan Sabha, Haryana, said the entire conduct of the CM was questionable, mentioning that he was only moving about to repair his damaged image. "He came to inaugurate a COVID centre in a school! Had it not been better if he had administered COVID relief programs by putting the administrative machinery to use efficiently. He came here for a mere photo-op. The farmers rightly gathered to protest his visit. Why did he make a cheap and false statement that farmers were spreading COVID-19 in villages. Will he please answer why the contagion is rampant in states where the farmers’ movement is not active? Mr. CM, this is a time when people are losing their dear ones. Please stop your drama and empathise with people. They need you in this critical hour!” Singh said.
After hours of deliberations between farmers’ leaders and police officials, the detained protesters were released. The police officials also agreed to withdraw cases registered against the farmers and their impounded vehicles were also released.
In a statement issued late on Sunday evening the farmer leaders said that the cost of treatment of injured peasants and protesters will be borne by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, Haryana. The unions also took back a call to gherao police stations across the state on Monday morning. Chaduni, who led the farmers’ delegation for the negotiations, said: "The police has agreed to release 85 farmer protesters and they will not file any case against them too. The impounded tractors and vehicles are being released. The action call for blocking the highway and protests at police stations is being withdrawn.
Farmers Return to Borders
A contingent of farmers from Punjab joined the ongoing agitation against the farm laws at Kundli Border after having harvested their wheat crop. The contingent, led by Ashok Dhawale, Krishna Prasad and Baljeet Singh Grewal, rallied for five kilometres at the protest site at Delhi’s North-West Border in Kundli before joining the protest on the main stage. Addressing the returning farmers, Dhawale called to observe May 26 Black Day at an unprecedented level with the movement completing six months on the day and the Central Government having completed seven years of being in power.