Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala on Tuesday defended the police officers who had baton-charged farmers protesting against the new farm laws at Karnal on Saturday, ANI reported.

“[A] video of police facing attacks has surfaced,” he said. “You won’t welcome anyone with garland if they try to attack you, they had to lathi-charge. Police’s job is to maintain law and order. We have made sure there is no use of excessive force [against farmers] in the last nine months.”

At least 10 farmers were injured after Haryana Police baton-charged them at the Bastara toll plaza near Karnal. The farmers, protesting against the government’s three agricultural laws, had blocked several stretches on highways near Karnal, resulting in traffic jams.

“If the intention is to create chaos, then it is different [matter],” Chautala said. “But if the intention is to work for farmers and farm laws, then they [farmers] must have regular talks. Where are those 40 people who said MSP [minimum support price] and markets won’t exist and [farmers’] lands will be occupied?”

The minimum support price is the guaranteed amount paid to farmers when the government buys their produce.

Chautala’s comment on Tuesday came two days after he had promised action against Karnal Sub-Divisional Magistrate Ayush Sinha, who was caught on camera last week instructing police officers to hit farmers on their heads during their protest.

“See, your duty is very simple, whoever he is, wherever he is from, no one should be allowed to reach there,” Sinha had told a group of policemen in a video widely shared on social media. “Let me state clearly, just smash their [farmers] heads [if they break the cordon].”

On Monday, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had also defended the police action against the farmers. Commenting specifically on Sinha’s action, the chief minister had said that while the official’s choice of words were not correct, it was essential to be strict in order to maintain law and order.

On Saturday, the Haryana administration had bolstered security in Karnal after the agitating farmers had threatened to stall a Bharatiya Janata Party’s state-level meeting in the district. The farmers had allegedly attacked the convoy of Haryana BJP unit President OP Dhankar when it was leaving a toll plaza between Panipat and Karnal.

Police baton-charged at the farmers when they tried to make their way to the meeting, which was 30 kilometres away from the toll plaza

Congress General Secretary Randeep Surjewala had accused the Haryana government of behaving like Reginald Edward Harry Dyer – the British army officer responsible for the 1919 Jalianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar.

On Tuesday, a delegation of Congress MLAs from the state met Governor Bandaru Dattatreya and sought a judicial inquiry into the matter, PTI reported. The leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, also submitted a video of the sub-divisional magistrate’s comments to the governor.

Protests against farm laws

Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi’s border points since November, seeking the withdrawal of the farm laws passed in September. Nine months later, protests against the laws continue to be staged in many parts of the country.

The government has claimed the new laws are aimed at making farming more profitable, but the farmers argue that they will bring about corporate dominance of the sector. However, farmers claim that once the prevailing authority of the state marketing boards – that provide a shield against exploitation – collapses, private entities will dictate the price of their produce.

They fear that the government plans to dismantle the minimum support price regime under the guise of reforming the agricultural sector.

In January, nearly two months into the farmer protests, the Supreme Court had suspended the implementation of the farm laws.