Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s visit to a village near Karnal city was cancelled on Sunday, after a group of farmers opposing the Centre’s agriculture laws ransacked the venue, reported NDTV.
Earlier during the day, the police had used water cannons and tear gas and resorted to baton charge to stop protestors from reaching a helipad in Kaimla village, where Khattar was scheduled to land to address the farmers in a “kisan mahapanchayat” event, according to The Indian Express. A large number of police were deployed at the venue since morning, in anticipation of trouble.
However, the farmers manged to reach the venue of the event and damaged the stage, chairs and posters, according to NDTV. Visuals of the chaos emerged on social media as well.
The protesting farmers crossed the first barricades installed at Gharaunda on Kaimla road, reported The Tribune. They then staged a dharna on the second barricade where Karnal Superintendent of Police Ganga Ram Punia tried to pacify them. The police have parked trucks near the second barricades to stop farmers from moving ahead.
At the second barricade, the farmers decided to leave their vehicles and move ahead on foot. The farmer leaders told the protestors to maintain discipline but the situation got out of control, according to the newspaper. The police then resorted to tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd. Some farmers managed to cross the second barricade.
Police from surrounding districts, including four superintendents of police and over 12 deputy superintendents of police, have been deployed at different entry points at the village. The police presence is in view of Khattar’s meeting where he will speak about the benefit of contentious farm laws. The farmers are opposing the event.
Some local residents, including MLA Harvinder Kalyan, have extended their support to the protesting farmers and said that they would also oppose the event.
Earlier too, the Khattar government had faced flak for authorising the use of water cannons and tear gas on farmers, when they began their march to Delhi in November. Khattar had also claimed that his government had “inputs” on the presence of Khalistani separatists in the ongoing farmers’ agitation.
The farm laws
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for over a month against the laws now, withstanding temperatures that had dropped to as low as two to three degrees Celsius.
The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations. The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The laws passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.
The Centre has held eight rounds of talks with the farmers. However, no consensus has been reached yet. During the seventh rounds of talks, the two sides had only reached an agreement on the decriminalisation of stubble burning and safeguarding electricity subsidies – two of the four matters of contention. The government is not willing to acquiesce to the two main demands of farmers – repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee for minimum support price system.