Lathi-charge revs up farm stir tempo in Haryana after a lull

While the farmers and police are engaged in a blame-game for the crackdown on protesters in Hisar, the Congress has found yet another opportunity to tear into the ruling  BJP-JJP combine, reports RAJESH MOUDGIL

The recent incident of lathi-charge by police on protesters near the newly constructed Covid hospital in Hisar on the occasion of its inauguration by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, has revved up the farmers’ stir against the farm laws afresh.

The incident comes after a lull of about three months when there were a series of incidents of protests by farmers at official functions, though the police had then refrained from resorting to lathi-charge resulting in injuries on both sides.

Several people, including 20 police personnel were hurt and at least five police vehicles damaged when the police had resorted to lathi-charge and lob teargas shells on a mob of miscreants which reportedly attacked the police personnel on being stopped from going towards the Covid hospital in Hisar. Several of the protesters were also hurt in the lathi-charge.

The miscreants also reportedly pelted stones at police personnel under the pretext of protest against farm laws, outside Ch Devi Lal Sanjivani Hospital, before the arrival of chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar who was scheduled to inaugurate it around the same time.

According to police, as many as 20 cops, including five women police personnel and DSP Abhimanyu Lohan were hurt in the clash. The miscreants also entered the complex of the said hospital where, police said, they even tried to run a tractor over the policemen and some of them sustained injuries. They also damaged five police vehicles on the occasion.

According to police, the miscreants — who were reportedly drunk — again tried to enter the hospital after its inauguration by Khattar, with an aim to carry out unruly activities on a large scale.

Later reacting on the incident and the police action, an official spokesperson, however, regretted the injuries to some women protesters during the police action. He said that cases had been registered against 350 persons under different sections of IPC including for rioting and attempt to murder. The administration, however, agreed to withdraw the cases following farmers protest after nine days of the incident.

Farmers’ fume

The police action has left the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), Haryana, fuming with its president Gurnam Singh Chaduni giving a call to block national highways in Haryana in the evening that very day. Chaduni and other leaders, including Rakesh Bains later said the office of Hisar range inspector general of police (IGP) was gheraoed besides holding protests in days to come. “While the farmers’ protests would continue till the farm laws were repelled, the farmers were also anguished as the Haryana police had not withdrawn cases against farmers despites its assurance to do the same for over a week’’, Bains said. The district administration had agreed to withdraw the same after nine days of the incident.

Chaduni condemned the police lathi-charge on farmers and said that while several of the farmers had been arrested and many others got injured, the BKU wanted to know as to how could be a large number of people allowed to assemble on the occasion when Covid restrictions were in place across the state. Suspecting a hand of some unscrupulous elements having mingled among the farmers, Chaduni asked as to why was the inauguration not done online? He held that some unscrupulous elements had deliberately come there to instigate the farmers who were protesting against the farm laws for the past six months.

Chaduni went on to rue Khattar’s remark in which he had said that the virus was spreading due to farmers’ movement and said that latter’s statement meant to tarnish farmers’ image.

Congress flays govt

The incident gave the state Congress an opportunity to tear into the state government seeking an Khattar’s apology for the lathi-charge on the farmers in Hisar. The party president Kumari Selja demanded the chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar apologised for the lathi-charge.

Several Congress leaders also hit out at the Khattar government over the said incident in which, they held, violent clashes took place when the protesting farmers tried to march towards the venue where Khattar had gone to inaugurate the hospital.

Kumari Selja rued that instead of rolling back the farm laws, the BJP-JJP government was raining lathis on farmers. She alleged that the chief minister inaugurated the hospital in the presence of a large number of people, putting them at a risk by not following the Covid protocols.

She said that the Congress leaders also submitted memorandums through the respective district deputy commissioners addressed to the governor, to bring to his notice that there was alleged violation of Covid-related guidelines. There were also prohibitory orders against gatherings of people during the chief minister’s visit to the inauguration event, yet a large number of people had been allowed to gather during the inauguration event of the hospital, she said in a statement.

Selja further said farmers have been protesting near various border points of Delhi against the new farm laws for the past six months yet neither the Centre nor the state government was listening to them. She said when the farmers learnt about Khattar’s visit to Hisar on that day they gathered there for a peaceful protest, but they got police lathis and teargas shells in response to their demonstration against the farm laws.

She alleged that several protesters, including women, were injured in the ruthless action of the police at the behest of the BJP-JJP government. Several other Congress leaders also pointed out what they termed as merciless lathi-charge on women protesters on the occasion. Geeta Bhukkal, Shakuntala Khatak, B B Batra and Aftab Ahmed held that the Hisar incident exposed the true face of the BJP. They alleged that the chief minister was seen shedding crocodile tears in the Vidhan Sabha in the last session when a tractor was pulled in a symbolic manner by a few women Congress MLAs to protest against hike in the fuel prices. The chief minister’s advisers had also publicised the episode stating how emotional and sensitive the chief minister was towards the women, the Congress leaders held.

The chief minister should now explain his silence when women protesters were brutally attacked by police in Hisar. These protesters had also sustained head injuries, Bhukkal asked.

It may be recalled that Khattar and several other BJP leaders had in March slammed the Congress after former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda rode a tractor being pulled by some of his party’s women MLAs to protest the rise in fuel prices. Khattar had deplored the event.