The police in Haryana’s Sirsa city arrested five people on Thursday in a case related to an alleged attack on the car of the Haryana deputy speaker during a farmers’ protest against the new agriculture laws, PTI reported.
The police had booked over 100 people, most of them unidentified, with sedition, attempt to murder and other charges. Two farmer leaders – Harcharan Singh and Prahlad Singh – were also among those named in the First Information Report.
On Thursday, Sirsa Superintendent of Police Arpit Jain confirmed the arrests. “We analysed the video footage of the incident in the past two days,” he told PTI. “The pictures were magnified and later based on the evidence, the five who were identified have been arrested.”
On July 11, farmers had staged protests at several events attended by the Bharatiya Janata Party. In Sirsa, they allegedly pelted stones and smashed the windscreen of Haryana Deputy Speaker Ranbir Gangwa’s car while he was coming out after attending a function at the city’s Chaudhary Devi Lal University. The deputy speaker escaped unhurt in the incident, according to the police. The FIR was filed on the same day, according to NDTV.
Meanwhile, a group of farmers sat on a dharna near Baba Bhuman Shah Ji Chowk in Sirsa on Thursday, demanding the release of those arrested, PTI reported.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmers’ unions, identified four of the five arrested men as Balkor Singh, Nika Singh, Daljeet and Mandeep. They alleged that the charges were “false and cooked up”.
“In the backdrop of the chief justice of the Supreme Court today expressing disapproval of use of the colonial era repressive law of sedition in post-independent India, the action of the police is indeed reprehensible,” the farmers’ body said.
They were referring to an observation by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, who on Thursday commented that the sedition law was a colonial one and raised questions on whether it was still necessary to use it after 75 years of Independence. A three-judge bench headed by Ramana was hearing a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait also criticised the sedition charge in the case.
“The sedition charge on protesters in Sirsa is an attempt to suppress the movement,” he tweeted. “Sedition is when someone tries to harm the country. The farmers are fighting for their rights. The government should stop taking such steps or else it would face resistance.”
Protest against farm laws
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 legislations are pro-farmer.