Karnal turns fortress a day before farmers’ mahapanchayat; internet suspended, section 144 imposed

By PTI

KARNAL: A large number of farmers stayed put outside the gates of the district headquarters here on Wednesday as they remained firm on their demand for action against IAS officer Ayush Sinha, who ordered a police lathi-charge on a group of peasants last month.

Locked in a showdown with the Haryana government over the lathi-charge, the farmers squatted at the gates of the mini-secretariat on Tuesday evening after talks with the local administration failed.

Many spent the night outside the mini-secretariat.

The protesters are demanding action over the police lathi-charge here on August 28.

Their main demand centres around Sinha, former Karnal SDM.

He was later transferred out as part of a larger bureaucratic shuffle.

The officer, whose suspension farmers’ union leaders are demanding, was caught on tape allegedly telling policemen to “break heads” if the protesters crossed the line.

About 10 protesters were hurt in the clash with police as they tried to march towards the venue of a BJP meeting.

Their leaders also claimed that a farmer died later, an allegation rejected by the administration.

A number of farmers along with many leaders of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) spent the night outside the main entry of the mini-secretariat.

In the morning, volunteers at the protest site were seen preparing tea and serving breakfast.

“We are not going anywhere from here until our demands are met,” Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni told reporters on Wednesday.

On the demand for Sinha’s suspension, he said, “First, we are saying transferring him is not a punishment. We are also saying when farmers are booked for even road blockade, why not take action against the officer who ordered (police) to break heads. Is there any law under which such an order can be given?” The movement of traffic on the Delhi-Karnal-Ambala NH-44 remained normal.

Security had been beefed up here on Monday, a day before farmers’ mahapanchayat, and central forces deployed.

The gherao began on Tuesday evening, several hours after farmers from Haryana and neighbouring states reached Karnal’s New Anaj Mandi for the mahapanchayat, riding tractors and motorcycles.

They marched on foot from the mahapanchayat venue to the mini-secretariat about five km away.

Protest leaders Rakesh Tikait and Yogendra Yadav are also at the gherao site.

Karnal Deputy Commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav had on Tuesday said that the administration had invited the farm leaders for another round of talks and that it was hopeful of resolving the issue.

The Home Department has extended the suspension of mobile internet services in Karnal until Wednesday midnight as the situation is “still volatile”.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) banning gathering of people have been imposed in the district.

Meanwhile, 

BJP) on Tuesday slammed Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala for allegedly comparing protesting farmers with the Taliban which has seized control of Afghanistan and demanded an apology from Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi over the remark.

Speaking to ANI, BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia hit back at Surjewala for saying BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Haryana were deliberately conspiring to provoke and divide the farmers and demanded that three new farm laws should be immediately repealed.

“Randeep Surjewala has no right to tell Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar about what steps to take in the interest of Haryana and in the interest of farmers. It’s sad that today Congress has compared farmers with the Taliban. Farmers are the pride of this country. The BJP governments in the Centre and in various states have taken concrete steps for farmers’ bright future, and here the Congress party and its leaders are calling the farmers Talibani,’ said Bhatiya.

Bhatia’s remark came after Surjewala at a press conference said, “When the Centre can talk with Taliban in Doha why cannot they hold discussions with farmers of the country. The farmers have been protesting peacefully at the Delhi borders for 10 months. The BJP-led government wants to sell the agricultural resources of the country. The farmers are fighting not just for themselves but for the country.”

Demanding an apology for the remark, the BJP leader said, “Sonia Gandhi ji should apologise to all farmers and Indian citizens for this statement.”

He further attacked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and asked, “When more than 50 farmers were lathi-charged in Punjab’s Moga, where was ‘Dhritarashtra’ Rahul Gandhi? It shows that Congress’ existence is no longer in danger as the party is finished today.”

“Congress remains the cheerleader of Indian politics. Keeping a gun on the shoulders of the farmers, Congress is cooking its political bread,” added the BJP leader.

The Congress Tuesday demanded Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s resignation after the alleged use of force against farmers protesting in Karnal, and said if the Modi government can talk to the Taliban in Doha why can’t it invite the farmers over for a dialogue.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged the governments led by Modi and Khattar are instigating the farmers and conspiring to pit them against the police.

“The Congress demands that if the BJP-JJP government in Haryana cannot talk to farmers, then chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar should resign. He and deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala have no right to occupy their positions,” he told reporters.

“The Congress also demands that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should invite the protesting farmers by stopping all his work and himself talk to them. He should shed his ego and arrogance and after talking to farmers, he should withdraw the three ‘black’ farm laws today itself,” the Congress leader said.

Surjewala said the Modi government and the BJP’s Haryana government are conspiring against the farmers and are trying to make this into a fight between the farmers and the jawans, who are their sons.

In Karnal, thousands of farmers are currently face to face with the armed police and water cannon is being used against them, he said.

“Modi ji, Khattar ji, when you can go to Doha to talk to the Taliban, why cannot you talk to the farmers who are sitting merely 20 kms from the prime minister at Delhi borders. You have not allowed them to enter Delhi. Does the prime minister have any answers,” he said.

“What kind of arrogance of power is this that the prime minister does not want to talk to farmers? Modi ji, this arrogance of power is not greater than democracy. The power of democracy is through people’s power. The world’s longest peaceful Gandhian protest by farmers is at Delhi’s borders for the last 10 months demanding justice,” Surjewala said.

The Congress leader also demanded that a case of murder be lodged over the death of Haryana farmer Sushil Kajal after the lathicharge on farmers on August 28.

He also demanded compensation for the next of kin of the dead farmer.

A large number of farmers on Tuesday squatted at the gates of the district headquarters here, locked in a showdown with Haryana’s BJP-led government over a police lathi-charge last month.

The gherao began in the evening, several hours after farmers from Haryana and neighbouring states reached Karnal’s New Anaj Mandi for a mahapanchayat, riding tractors and motorcycles.

Marching on foot from the mahapanchayat venue to the mini-secretariat five kilometres away, farmers faced a water cannon as they neared the complex.

They jumped some barricades, but there was no other serious confrontation with police along the way.

(With ANI Inputs)