A huge contingent of farmers joined the Kisan Mahapanchayat, which was held in Haryana’s Sirsa district on Saturday in the light of the arrests of five farmers and sedition cases against them. Despite heavy deployment of paramilitary forces, the protesters continued demonstrating.
On July 15, five farmers were charged with sedition and arrested after police raided their houses in the wee hours for allegedly attacking Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Haryana Assembly Deputy Speaker Ranbir Singh Gangwa.
The protesting farmers said that they only learnt about the arrests when the five persons were sent to judicial custody. Since then, the farmers have been demanding their release and the revocation of sedition charges.
More than 100 protesters are facing sedition charges, of which five were arrested. This is the first time that sedition law has been invoked against the farmers who have been protesting against the three farm laws for the last eight months.
“We have registered an FIR against 100-150 protesters under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including obstructing public servants in discharge of their duty, murderous attempt on an elected representative, damaging public property. Section 124 A (sedition) has also been added in the FIR and further investigations are on,” Station House Officer (SHO) of Civil Lines police station, Inspector Vikram Singh told the PTI.
At the Mahapanchayat, the atmosphere was charged up with protesters demanding immediate release of the arrested farmers. “We want the Haryana government to lift up the sedition charges and release our fellow protesters. The government is hell bent on breaking us but we will keep protesting till our demands are met,” said Deepak Lamba of Jai Kisan Aandolan.
Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body of farmers unions, had issued a statement earlier in the week terming the charges as “false, frivolous and cooked up”.
Meanwhile, in a letter to Opposition MPs, protesting farmers issued a "Voters' Whip," requesting that they be present in Parliament on all days of the monsoon session and that no business be conducted until "the Centre accedes to the farmers' demands on the floor of the Houses."
“If you and your party defy this Voters’ Whip, the farmers will be compelled to oppose you on every public stage just as we oppose the leaders, MLAs, MPs of the BJP and its allies,” the Samyukt Kisan Morcha said.
It all started on July 11 when Gangwa was gheraoed by a group of farmers when he was coming out of the Chaudhary Devi Lal University after attending a political meeting. Outside, the farmers were staging dharna at the University gates. Despite having police protection, as soon as Gangwa stepped out the gate, he was encircled by the farmers who demanded the release of four detainees. The farmers had also blocked roads at five locations including NH9 that connects Dabwali to Delhi. When the detainees were released late in the night, the farmers cleared the roads.
Sirsa BJP president Adiya Devi Lal claimed that a few protesters had hurled stones at Gangwa’s car, which broke the rear view mirror of the vehicle.
This is not the first time. The farmers have already announced in Punjab and Haryana that they will not let BJP leaders enter their areas in the backdrop of three farm laws. Haryana has witnessed many similar protests in the past in Jhajjar, Panipat, and Fatehabad, among others.
“First of all, why the political meeting was held at the University campus? Was there no other place? This is my question,” asked Lamba.