Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij on Thursday said that the state government will investigate the “entire Karnal episode” when the police resorted to use of batons on a group of protesting farmers in the district, NDTV reported.
Vij added that if any farmer leaders are found guilty, then the government will take action against them too.
On August 28, at least 10 farmers were injured after the state police baton-charged them at the Bastara toll plaza near Karnal as they were trying to reach the venue of a Bharatiya Janata Party meeting, attended by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to discuss the upcoming panchayat elections. The farmers had blocked several stretches on the national highway, resulting in traffic jams.
On the same day, former Karnal Sub-Divisional Magistrate Ayush Sinha was caught on camera instructing police officers to “smash the heads” of farmers if they tried to breach a certain barricade.
For the past three days, farmers have been protesting outside the mini-secretariat in Karnal seeking action against those involved in the baton-charge. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of over 40 protesting farmer unions, has also demanded that a murder case should be registered against Sinha.
The home minister on Thursday said that the government cannot punish police officers without carrying out an investigation. “We cannot hang anyone because someone says so,” Vij told reporters, according to PTI.
Vij added that farmers have a right to peacefully protest. “Our officials are regularly holding talks with them,” he said. “Dialogue is an integral part of any democracy.”
Earlier on Thursday, the Haryana government extended a ban on mobile internet and short message services (SMS) in Karnal district till midnight. The order was issued “to prevent any disturbance of peace and public order” in Karnal, Additional Chief Secretary Rajeev Arora said.
The protests in Karnal are a part of a series of demonstrations that have erupted across the country since last year against the farm laws.
The government has claimed the 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.