The Uttar Pradesh Police have claimed that there was a clerical error in notices asking farmer leaders in Sambhal district to submit personal bonds of Rs 50 lakh each for allegedly trying to instigate farmers in the area amid protests against the Centre’s agricultural laws, The Indian Express reported on Friday.

The police added that the amount would be revised to Rs 50,000. Sambhal Superintendent of Police Chakresh Mishra told the newspaper that new notices would be issued to the farmer leaders.

Circle Officer Arun Kumar Singh said: “The SDM [sub-divisional magistrate] is currently on leave and once he comes back, we will look to issue a bond of Rs 50,000 since the earlier one was a clerical error.”

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Asli) Sambhal district President Rajpal Singh Yadav was among six leaders who were asked to deposit the Rs 50 lakh bonds. Six more farmer leaders were ordered to submit bonds of Rs 5 lakh.

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Yadav told The Indian Express that the administration wanted to stop the farmers’ protests and picked a random amount to deter them. “Why is the administration so afraid of farmers protesting?” he asked. “They have mentioned Rs 50 lakh as if we are terrorists. They know that we do not have that kind of money.”

Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh member Rajveer Singh, who was also asked to submit a bond, said the notices were “sheer harassment”.

Sambhal Sub-Divisional Magistrate Deependra Yadav had said that the farmer leaders were issued notices under Section 111 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The section relates to the magistrate’s order against a person who is likely to “commit breach of peace”. An unidentified official told The Indian Express that the leaders were not only instigating the farmers but also spreading fake news that could endanger peace in the area, according to a police report.

Farmers have been protesting against the three agricultural laws near Delhi for 23 straight days amid the biting cold. They remain firm on their demand that the government repeal the three laws, which they fear will weaken the minimum support price mechanism and leave them at the mercy of corporate houses.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court, while hearing a batch of petitions seeking removal of farmers from various borders of Delhi, said that it had sympathy for them, but they cannot sit on protest for years. The court also asked the Centre if the laws could be put on hold till the hearing on petitions was underway. A day before that, the court had proposed the formation of a committee comprising representatives of both the sides to end the standoff over the new laws.

The farmers and the Centre have held several rounds of talks to resolve the deadlock over the new laws but there has been little progress.