The Haryana Police registered a case against 13 farmers protesting against the agricultural laws on various charges such as attempt to murder and rioting after a group of them blocked Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s convoy and hurled sticks at it, PTI reported on Thursday.
The first information report was lodged on Tuesday night under nine sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 307 (attempt to murder), and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, according to The Indian Express. It was filed on the basis of a complaint by police officer Gurjant Singh.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at Delhi’s borders for 29 days now, blocking highways in giant demonstrations against the new legislations that they say will pave the way for corporate exploitation. They have hunkered down with supplies that can last months and have said they will not leave till the government abolishes the “black laws”.
On Tuesday, a group of them charged at Khattar’s convoy while it was passing through Ambala city, and briefly blocked its movement. Khattar was in the city to address public meetings in support of Bharatiya Janata Party candidates for the upcoming civic body polls in Haryana. Several protestors waved black flags at the chief minister and shouted slogans against his government. Some of them also hurled sticks at the vehicle, the police said.
In the FIR, the police said that they had come to know “through secret sources” that the farmers posed a threat to Khattar and other senior party leaders as they could “cause damage to them”, according to The Indian Express.
“The policemen on duty said through loudspeaker they can hold their protest against the laws but peacefully…but despite that they reached Agrasen Chowk from Anaj Mandi while carrying black flags in their hands,” the FIR added. At 12.30 pm, when the chief minister’s cavalcade reached Agrasen Chowk, they stopped some of the vehicles and pelted sticks at them, it said. “When police administration was providing exit to the cavalcade by diverting its route, these rioters and others stopped the way and attacked the policemen.”
Farmers’ union leaders denied the allegations and said that the police were filing false cases against them “to suppress their voice”.
“The farmers had just gone to stage a protest not to kill anybody,” Bharatiya Kisan Union Ambala President Malkit Singh told The Indian Express. “Whenever any matter of farmer agitation comes, the police don’t slap charges less than of attempt to murder against us. Attempt to murder charges were slapped even for getting opened the roads which were blocked by the authorities during the farmer agitation.”
When the farmers began their march to Delhi 29 days ago, they were met with violent action from police, who attempted to turn them back by using water cannons, batons and tear gas. The authorities had taken extraordinary measures to set up blockades on highways – parking buses, trucks and other large vehicles – to stop them. At some places, they even dug up trenches to obstruct farmers, many of whom camped on highways for the night in chilling temperatures.
In Fatehabad, farmers staged a massive demonstration, demanding the withdrawal of cases lodged against the agitators in Haryana. Many of them marched to the office of local BJP MLA Dura Ram to urge him to intervene.
Congress criticises Haryana government
Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja criticised the state government for registering cases against the protestors, saying the administration had “crossed all limits this time”.
“Filing a case of attempt to murder and under other sections against the farmers shows the government’s desperation,” she added. “In a democracy, everyone has the right to free speech but when the voice of people is suppressed, they are forced to come to the streets for their rights.”
Selja added that the farmers waved black flags at Khattar because people have lost faith in his government. “The voice of farmers is being continuously suppressed by the BJP government,” she said, adding that the administration should immediately withdraw the cases against the farmers.