Farmers’ unions held a mahapanchayat (congregation) at Nuh district of Haryana on Sunday, a day after the state police baton charged farmers at the Bastara toll plaza near Karnal city, India Today reported.
The Nuh mahapanchayat had been scheduled earlier itself, but the union leaders used the platform to criticise the Haryana administration for using force on Saturday against farmers who were protesting against the new agriculture laws.
At least 10 farmers were injured during the baton charge. A video showed Karnal Sub-Divisional Magistrate Ayush Sinha instructing police officers to hit farmers on their heads if they tried to breach a barricade during their protest against Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.
Top leaders of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha – an umbrella body of farmers’ unions – like Rakesh Tikait, Darshan Pal, Joginder Singh Ugrahan and Yogendra Yadav were present at Sunday’s mahapanchayat which also marked nine months of the farmers agitation against the new agriculture laws.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday’s incident, Tikait remarked that the country had been taken over by “sarkaari Taliban” (government-sponsored Taliban), reported ANI.
“This person who gave the orders to smash heads [of farmers] is a commander of sarkaari Taliban,” Tikait said. “He showed yesterday that when up against farmers, they want to control the country by might of police force.”
Tikait demanded that the sub-divisional magistrate be sacked and transferred to a Maoist-dominated region, according to India Today. He also met protesters who were injured in Saturday’s baton charge.
Farmer bodies had also called for blocking the Jalandhar-Delhi highway on Sunday afternoon, NDTV reported. In Punjab, Joginder Ugrahan, chief of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), also said that farmers will block roads in the state.
Meanwhile, Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala on Sunday said that the sub-divisional magistrate’s actions were condemnable and added that action will be taken against him, ANI reported.
Chautala also dismissed a clarification given by the government officer where he said that he had not slept for the last two days.
“He probably does not know that farmers also do not sleep on 200 days a year,” Chautala said.
Farm laws agitation
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.