Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Friday apologised for asking supporters to “pick up sticks” and employ a “tit-for-tat” strategy against farmers protesting the Centre’s new agriculture laws, NDTV reported.

Khattar had also asked Bharatiya Janata Party members who had met in his home in Chandigarh on October 3 to not worry about legal consequences of forming such volunteer groups.

“If you stay there [in jail] for a month, two months or six months then you will become a big leader,” he had said.

Khattar retracted his comments on Friday while on a visit to Mata Mansa Devi Temple in Panchkula, according to The Tribune.

“I want to tell my farmer brothers who are hurt by my statement that I am taking back my statement,” he said. “I don’t want any sort of law-and-order situation to be created in Haryana which may disturb peace.”

Khattar said that he had cancelled a visit to Kaithal district on Saturday as farmers are opposed to his presence at a planned event despite his apology, NDTV reported.

The Haryana chief minister’s comments about raising volunteer groups on Sunday came amid clashes between BJP leaders and farmers protesting against the agriculture laws.

On October 2, 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 the procurement of paddy in both the states from September 25 to October 11. The police used water cannon to disperse the protestors.

Later, the Centre announced that paddy and millet procurement in Haryana and Punjab would start from October 3.

A day earlier, on October 1, the police used water cannon to disperse farmers who were marching towards a venue in Jhajjar district where Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala was attending an event.

In August, 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 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 the implementation of the farm laws.