Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Wednesday told farmers protesting against the three agricultural laws not to test the government’s patience, NDTV reported.
His comments came hours after clashes broke out between Bharatiya Janata Party workers and farm law protestors in Ghazipur at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border.
Tens of thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi since November, demanding a repeal of the laws. Despite a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the farmers have resolved to not leave until their demands are met. Over the last few months, they have also staged protests against public functions of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Jannayak Janata Party leaders in Haryana.
“We have maintained patience but they keep threatening us that the chief minister can’t visit, the deputy chief minister can’t visit the villages,” Khattar said at a press conference in Chandigarh. “Those running the government have a responsibility to meet and attend people. No matter how much they provoke us we are keeping our calm since they are our own people from Haryana. But it won’t be good for anyone to cross their limit.”
The chief minister claimed that those opposing the farm laws were doing so only because of political reasons, PTI reported. “Their Punjab team is doing so because polls are approaching there,” he alleged. “But there are no polls due in our state. Here the agenda is to defame the government using political angle. And the Congress is also supporting them in this.”
He said incidents like the alleged sexual exploitation of a woman from West Bengal at the Tikri border last month has led to questions about the protest. “The word kisan [farmer] is pure and everyone holds them in high regard,” Khattar said. “Due to a few unfortunate incidents, the word has become tarnished. Dignity of sisters and daughters is taken away, murders are happening, roads are being blocked. I condemn the incidents that are undemocratic.”
Last month, the police in Haryana had started an investigation into allegations by the father of the woman that she had been raped by two men who accompanied her to the protest site at Tikri border. However, the woman died after showing coronavirus-like symptoms at a hospital in Bahadurgarh in Jhajjar district, according to PTI.
Farm law protests
The farmers fear the central government laws will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime. The government, however, continues to claim that the three legislations are pro-farmer.
In January, nearly two months into the protest movement, the Supreme Court suspended the implementation of the farm laws. It instead set up a committee and tasked it to consult stakeholders and assess the impact of the laws.
Talks between farmers groups and the central government to resolve the protests came to a complete deadlock after farmers rejected the Centre’s offer to suspend the laws for two years. The last time both sides met was on January 22. Since then, most farmer leaders have said they were willing to speak to the government again.