The Haryana police have invoked sedition charges against a group of farmers who allegedly attacked and damaged the official vehicle of state Deputy Speaker Ranbir Gangwa in Sirsa district on July 11, reported The Hindu on Wednesday. The farmers were holding a demonstration against the Centre’s farm laws and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.

Confirming the charges of sedition have been invoked, Sirsa Senior Superintendent of Police Arpit Jain told The Hindu on Wednesday that an investigation was underway in the case. “So far, no arrests have been made in the case,” he added.

The police registered a first information report against two farmer leaders – Harcharan Singh and Prahlad Singh – and 100 unidentified protestors. Besides sedition, they have been booked under Sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) of the Indian Penal Code.

On July 11, farmers had staged protests at several events attended by BJP leaders in districts of Fatehabad, Jhajjar and Ambala.

In Sirsa, they allegedly pelted stones and smashed the windscreen of Gangwa’s car. However, the deputy speaker was not hurt. “They were not farmers but anti-social elements,” Sirsa district BJP president Aditya Devi Lal claimed after the alleged attack. “This is not the right way of protest. The police administration should take action against such persons.”

The protest on July 11 was part of the larger agitation in which the farmers had announced a “social boycott” of the saffron party’s politicians. This came following BJP’s attempts to hold organisational programmes in Haryana after temporarily pausing them in view of the farm law protests.

Meanwhile, the police have suspended Station House Officer of Sirsa Civil Lines Vikram Singh for allegedly mishandling the situation, leading to vandalisation of Gangwa’s vehicle, reported The Tribune. An inquiry has also been initiated against Deputy Superintendent of Police Sanjay Kumar in connection with the incident.

Jain was appointed in place of former Sirsa Superintendent of Police Bhupender Singh after the chaos.

Meanwhile, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij claimed that the protest against farm legislations was getting violent with each passing day.

Government provoking us: Farmer’s body

Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader Darshan Pal said that the government was provoking farmers by booking protestors under sedition. “How can sedition and murder charges be justified if a windscreen of a vehicle was broken?” he asked. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha is an umbrella body of many farmers’ union and is leading the protest against the farm laws.

Pal said that the Samyukt Kisan Morcha will take a call on the matter during a meeting on Wednesday. “We have already announced that all legislators, including those from the BJP, the Jannayak Janta Party and the Independents who support the laws, will be peacefully boycotted and will not be allowed entry into villages across the state,” he added.

The farm laws protest

Thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi since November, demanding that the central government repeal the three laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies. The farmers have hunkered down with supplies that they say will last them for months, and have resolved to not leave until their demands are met.

Talks between farmers groups and the central government to resolve the protests came to a complete deadlock after farmers rejected the Centre’s offer to suspend the laws for two years. The last time both sides met was on January 22. Since then, most farmer leaders have said they were willing to speak to the government again.

The farmers fear the policies will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime. The government, however, continues to claim that the three legislation are pro-farmer.

In January, nearly two months into the farmer protests, the Supreme Court had suspended the implementation of the farm laws. It instead set up a committee and tasked it to consult stakeholders and assess the impact of the laws.