Policeman Injured, Tear Gas Shells Fired As Cops, Farmers Clash In Haryana

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Chandigarh:

A police officer was injured Friday in a pitched battle between protesting farmers and cops in Khedi Chwpata in Haryana’s Hisar. Visuals showed a chaotic and volatile situation; police – escorted by riot personnel in full gear – can be seen taking people into custody while farmers surrounded them.

The violence – in which tear gas shells were fired and police resorted to a lathi charge, while protesters threw stones – broke after the farmers were stopped from marching to Khanauri on the Punjab border.

They were headed to join thousands others who have gathered there, and at the Shambhu border crossing, ahead of a ‘Delhi Chalo’ march to demand a legal guarantee for MSP, or minimum support price, and waiver of farm loans, pensions, and ollback of increased electricity rates, among other things.

Earlier today a 62-year-old farmer died in Khanauri after suffering a cardiac arrest.

READ | Another Protesting Farmer Dies, Leaders Want Job For His Family

Darshan Singh was from Punjab’s Bathinda district, and was the second person from Bathinda to have died in these protests; on Wednesday Subhkaran Singh, 21, died during a clash with the cops. 

Singh died after farmers rushed barricades set up by the police at the Khanauri border crossing to stop them from reaching Delhi. Farmer leaders said his body – a (delayed) postmortem showed a head injury – would not be cremated till the Punjab government registers a case against the person responsible. 

Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann – who expressed sorrow over Subhkaran Singh’s death – said a case would be filed after the post-mortem. “Those responsible will have to face stringent action,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader said, as he announced Rs 1 crore compensation and employment for Singh’s sister.

READ | Farmer’s Death: No Cremation Till FIR Is Filed, Say Union Leaders

Apart from Darshan Singh and Subhkaran Singh, at least two others – both over 60 – have died – from suspected heart attacks – in these protests, which follow nationwide (and frequently violent) agitations between 2020 and 2021, when tens of thousands of farmers marched on Delhi and set up camp on its borders, effectively blockading the national capital to press home their demands.

READ | “6 Months’ Ration, Diesel In Trollies”: Punjab Farmers Ready For Long Haul

The deaths forced farmer leaders to put their Delhi march plans on hold.

They have not, however, backed down and show no signs of doing so; last week a farmer leader told NDTV they had come with enough food and other essential provisions to last for six months, and will not disperse without having their concerns addressed.

The government has held four rounds of talks with the farmers, who are led by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (the non-political unit of the union that spearheaded the 2020/21 protests) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha. Both sides are expected to sit for a fifth round of talks shortly. 

Meanwhile, the political wing of the SKM has declared a “black Friday” and burnt effigies of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and his Haryana counterpart, Anil Vij, as well as Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

READ | Black Day, Mahapanchayat: Farmers To Launch Mega Protests Today

Farmers’ unions has also called for a tractor rally on Monday and a day-long programme at Delhi’s Ram Leela Ground on March 14. “We will go without tractors… The government keeps saying they are not stopping us, so let’s see…”

The government has made one offer – a five-year contract to buy three types of pulses, maize, and cotton at the old MSP. This was rejected by the farmers, who want MSP coverage extended to all 23 cash crops, legal guarantees, and for the Swaminathan Commission’s updated payment formula to be used. 

NDTV Explains | Centre’s 5-Year MSP Plan, And Why Farmers Are Not Convinced

A delegation led by Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda has been speaking to the farmers, whose protest comes at a bad time for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, with a general election just weeks away. Mr Munda has asked farmers to remain patient and maintain the peace and, in remarks seen as a swipe at the opposition, warned them against allowing external forces to “hijack” their protests.

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