The Haryana government has extended the ban on mobile internet and short message services (SMS) in Karnal district till Thursday midnight as the farmers’ protest outside the mini-secretariat entered the third day, reported ANI. The services were banned on Tuesday.
The order was issued “to prevent any disturbance of peace and public order” in Karnal, the notification signed by Additional Chief Secretary Rajeev Arora said.
The protestors are demanding action against the baton-charge by the police on August 28 on farmers heading to Karnal to stage a demonstration against the Centre’s agriculture laws at a meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
At least 10 protestors were injured in the baton-charge. An injured protestor had died due to a heart attack on August 29, according to Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni, but the police said that reports linking his death to the baton-charge were not correct.
Former Karnal Sub-divisional Magistrate Ayush Sinha was caught on camera on the day of the incident instructing police officers to “smash the heads” of farmers if they tried to breach a certain police barricade.
Amid a political row over the comment, Sinha was then transferred out of Karnal on September 1 as part of a reshuffle in the district administration.
On Wednesday, farmer leaders held talks with officials of the Karnal district administration to discuss their demands. However, after the three-hour long meeting, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said that the talks remained inconclusive.
Tikait said the sit-in will continue and farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and other places will join in if their demand was not met.
The protestors have set up tents and are organising langars (community meals) at the site. CCTV cameras have also been installed around the protest site and volunteers were seen monitoring the movement of people, reported the Hindustan Times.
Meanwhile, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij said on Wednesday that everyone has the right to protest in a democracy, reported The Indian Express. “Whatever their [farmers] demands are, our officers are talking to them,” he added.
Karnal Deputy Commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav said that all offices in the district were “fully functional” and the administration was holding regular talks with the protestors. However, he warned that people trying to disrupt law and order will be “dealt with sternly”.
Besides action against Sinha and police officers involved in the baton-charge, the protestors are demanding Rs 25 lakh in compensation for the family of the protestor who died and Rs 2 lakh each for those injured.
The protests in Karnal are a part of a series of demonstrations that have erupted across the country since last year in connection with the farm laws.
They started with thousands of farmers protesting at Delhi’s border points since November 2020, seeking the withdrawal of the three farm laws passed in September last year.
The government has claimed the new laws are aimed at making farming more profitable, but the farmers argue that the legislations would 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.