The police in Haryana’s Sirsa district on Saturday deployed a huge force after farmer unions called for a protest against arrests in a sedition case, The Indian Express reported. Hundreds of farmers were expected to stage a blockade outside the district police chief’s office.
On Thursday, the police had arrested five people in a case related to an alleged attack on the car of Haryana Deputy Speaker Ranbir Gangwa during a farmers’ protest against the new agriculture laws. The police had booked over 100 people, most of them unidentified, under 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.
Farmer unions have criticised the police action, pointing out that even the Supreme Court has described the sedition law as “colonial”, and questioned its need after 75 years of Independence.
Some protestors on Saturday allegedly attacked vehicles of BJP leader Sanjay Tandon and Chandigarh Mayor Ravi Kant Sharma in the city’s Sector 48 area. The two leaders were attending a function as vandals reportedly broke the windshields of the politicians’ cars, according to The Tribune.
“The arrangement by the police was poor,” Tandon said. “They should not have allowed people, most of whom were outsiders, to attack our vehicles.” The BJP leader said the vandals seemed like anti-social elements who had joined the protests.
A video purportedly from Chandigarh of a child sitting in a police vehicle was also posted on the Twitter account of Kisan Ekta Morcha, a joint front representing the farmers protesting against the Centre’s agricultural laws.
The Kisan Ekta Morcha had said that the meeting of farmer leaders, the police, and the Sirsa district authorities started around 3 pm. However, the 90-minute-long meeting failed to reach an agreed upon conclusion, reported The Indian Express. Farmers then blocked Sirsa’s Prajapati Chowk and the Sirsa-Barnala highway.
Bharatiya Kisan Union chief Rakesh Tikait said the police did not have any evidence and accused them of sending men “to create law and order issues...to pressurise farmers”, reported The Indian Express. “We shall hold a morcha here in Sirsa as a part of our ongoing struggle.”
Earlier on Saturday, Tikait had said that despite the Supreme Court’s observation, the police in Haryana were booking farmers with sedition charges.
Earlier on Saturday, Haryana Superintendent of Police Arpit Jain said that they have made adequate deployments to stop protestors. “Over 10,000 personnel from across all districts of Haryana, Rapid Action Force and paramilitary forces have been deployed along with 30 checkpoints so that nobody disrupts law and order and attempts to break the law,” he told The Indian Express.
However, barricades set up by the police were knocked down in Sirsa on Saturday afternoon as demonstrations continued, according to NDTV.
Sirsa Civil Lines Police Station Station House Officer Ram Niwas told The Indian Express that a first information report was lodged on Wednesday on the complaint of Assistant Sub-inspector of Police Prem Singh, who had received injuries on July 11.
In Sirsa, they allegedly pelted stones and smashed the windscreen of the Haryana deputy speaker’s car while he was coming out after attending a function at the Chaudhary Devi Lal University. The deputy speaker escaped unhurt in the incident, according to the police.
As the discussions failed on Saturday, security deployment was increased around the homes of Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala and Haryana Power Minister Ranjit Singh Chautala in Sirsa.
Protests 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.