A video of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar doing the rounds on social media on Sunday showed him asking people to form volunteer groups who would “pick up sticks” and employ a “tit-for-tat” tactic on farmers protesting against the Centre’s contentious farm laws.

Khattar made the comments while addressing members of the farmers’ body of the Bharatiya Janata Party at his home in Chandigarh on Sunday, The Indian Express reported.

“You will have to encourage some new farmers’ bodies that are emerging,” Khattar says in the video that was widely shared by social media users. “And especially in districts of North and West Haryana...You organise 500-700-1,000 farmers, make them volunteers and then Sathe Sathyam Samacharet [a Sanskrit phrase]. What does this mean?”

As someone from the group replies, Khattar adds: “Jaise ko taisa [tit-for-tat], pick up sticks.”

The Haryana chief minister also asked the people present at the meeting to not worry about getting bail – apparently replying to someone who asked about legal consequences of forming the volunteer group as advised by him.

“No, we will look after that...And if you get hit by sticks, do not worry about bail,” he said. “If you stay there [in jail] for a month, two months or six months then you will become a big leader.”

The Haryana chief minister’s comment came amid a fresh spell of clashes between the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and farmers protesting against the agriculture laws.

On Saturday, massive protests erupted outside the homes of leaders of the ruling BJP and the Jannayak Janata Party in Haryana. The farmers were protesting against Centre’s decision to postpone procurement of paddy in both the states from September 25 to October 11. Police used water cannons to disperse the protestors.

Later, the Centre announced that paddy and millet procurement in Haryana and Punjab will start from Sunday itself.

A day earlier, on Friday, police used water cannons to disperse farmers who were marching towards a venue where Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala was attending an event in Jhajjar district.

On Thursday, a meeting of BJP leaders in Haryana’s Karnal district was halted after farmers broke through the barricades installed at the venue by the police.

Last month, ten farmers were injured when the police had baton-charged them during a demonstration in Karnal against the agriculture laws. Former Karnal Sub-divisional Magistrate Ayush Sinha had ordered the police officers to “smash the heads” of the protestors if they crossed certain police barricades.

Farm laws protest

The three contentious farm laws were passed by the government in September 2020, which sparked off protests by farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh that have continued to rage ever since.

The central 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.

The farmers also 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.

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