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  India   All India  22 Feb 2024  Farmer killed, many hurt; Delhi Chalo march halted

Farmer killed, many hurt; Delhi Chalo march halted

Published : Feb 22, 2024, 1:00 am IST
Updated : Feb 22, 2024, 1:00 am IST

There are indications that farmer leaders will decide on their future course of agitation by Friday

A farmer stands near a roadblock with inscription reading 'No farmer, no food' during the ongoing farmers' protest over various demands, including a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for crops, at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu Border, in Patiala district, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (PTI)
 A farmer stands near a roadblock with inscription reading 'No farmer, no food' during the ongoing farmers' protest over various demands, including a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for crops, at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu Border, in Patiala district, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (PTI)

NEW DELHI: Farmer leaders on Wednesday put on hold their “Delhi Chalo” march for two days after a 21-year-old farmer was reportedly killed and several others, including some police personnel, were injured following a clash between security personnel and protestors at Khanauri and Shambhu points on the Punjab-Haryana border.

Agriculture minister Arjun Munda, who is among the three Union ministers engaging with the farmers' leaders, appealed to the protesters to maintain peace and resolve issues through discussions. He also invited the leaders for a fifth round of talks on all issues, including MSP. There are indications that farmer leaders will decide on their future course of agitation by Friday.

While farmer leader Baldev Singh Sirsa claimed Bathinda resident Subhkaran Singh on Wednesday became the first victim of the clashes since the Delhi Chalo march began on February 13, the Haryana police denied the claim, saying no protester had lost his life.

“Two policemen and a protester were injured at the Khanori border and are undergoing treatment,” Haryana police said in a post on X.

Witnesses said that the Haryana police fired rubber pellets and resorted to teargassing to disperse farmers from Punjab at border points as they tried to move towards barricades, stalling their protest march to Delhi. The farmer leaders were seen appealing to the protesters to maintain calm and peace. Volunteers deputed by the farmer leaders at the protest sites even asked young farmers not to move ahead.

Thousands of farmers resumed their agitation two days after the fourth round of talks with the government over their demands, including a legal guarantee for the minimum support price (MSP) for crops and farm debt waiver, failed.

The protesting farmers had gathered at the border points between Punjab and Haryana along with their tractor-trolleys, mini-vans and pickup trucks. Heavy earthmoving equipment, including excavators and modified tractors, were seen at the protest sites, with police cautioning that these might be used to break barricades and cause harm to security personnel.

Following the teargas shelling at border points, a chaotic situation was witnessed at the protest sites, with the farmers running for cover as the smoke enveloped the area. Many protesting farmers were also seen wearing masks and glasses to protect themselves from the gas. The police used drones to keep an eye on the activities of the farmers on the other side of the barricades.

Commuters travelling from other states to Delhi faced massive traffic jams as security agencies checked the ID cards of the drivers at all border pickets leading to the national capital before allowing them entry.

On Wednesday, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait also opened another front in western Uttar Pradesh as protesting farmers strode their tractors at several district headquarters.

The BKU workers and farmers took out a tractor march near the tehsil in Shamli as well. The farmers tried to take the tractors inside the tehsil, but the police stopped them. Later, protesters went inside the tehsil with tractors. Similar protests were also held in Baghpat, Meerut, Hapur, Sambhal, Amroha and Saharanpur.

In a strong response to an advisory issued by the Union home ministry in the wake of the farmer agitation, the Punjab government said it is “completely wrong” to say that the state is allowing protesters to gather at the borders.

It claimed that despite over 160 people getting injured because of the use of teargas shells, rubber bullets, drones and physical force by the Haryana police, the Punjab government has maintained the law and order situation “with responsibility.”

Following reports of over 14,000 people gathering along the Punjab-Haryana border with 1,200 tractor-trolleys and other vehicles ahead of the resumption of the Delhi Chalo march on Wednesday, the Union home ministry had raised concern about the “deteriorating” law-and-order situation in Punjab and asked the state government to take action.

In the letter, written by Punjab chief secretary Anurag Verma, the state government said it has not received the orders passed by the Punjab and Haryana high court the previous day, in which it had asked the farmers not to use tractor-trolleys on the road. The order has not been uploaded on the court's website either, it said.

Mr Verma pointed out that the farmers were going to Delhi to protest and were stopped on the border of Punjab and Haryana due to restrictions on movement.

Calling for showing more sympathy towards the farmers, the chief secretary said that law and order should be handled in a more sensitive manner during protests because Punjab is a border state. The Punjab government also emphasised that it has played an important role in the negotiations, pointing out that chief minister Bhagwant Mann had attended three of the four meetings between the Centre and the farmers.

The secretary said 2,000 policemen, including DIG-rank IPS and provincial police service officers from the Punjab police are working to maintain peace and order. “We are constantly monitoring the situation and will take steps if necessary,” he said.

Addressing protesters at the Shambhu border, farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal asked them to maintain peace and calm if they wanted to win. “Do you want to win or not?” he asked the farmers.

He also mentioned the "victory" of farmers during the 2020-21 agitation against the now-repealed farm laws.

Mr Dallewal cautioned the farmers to be wary of elements who could damage the agitation. Earlier in the day, while speaking to reporters, he said farmers will march towards Delhi in a peaceful manner. “Our intention is not to disturb peace,” he asserted.

While accusing the Centre of indulging in "delaying tactics" over their demands, Mr Dallewal said it should take a decision in their favour. He also condemned the government for installing multiple layers of barricades at the border points to prevent the farmers from heading towards Delhi.

Condoling the death of a farmer, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in a post on X, said, "The news of death of young farmer Shubhakaran Singh in firing on the Khanauri border is heartbreaking. My condolences are with his family.”

Attacking the BJP, Mr Gandhi posted that the last time Prime Minister Narendra Modi's arrogance claimed the lives of more than 700 farmers, now it has again become the enemy of their lives.

Meanwhile, in a post on X on Wednesday, the Haryana police asked owners of excavators to withdraw their machines from the protest sites. If they do not do so, action will be taken, it said.

“For owners and operators of poclains, JCBs: Please do not provide your equipment to the protestors and withdraw them from the protest site if already done, as they may be used to cause harm to security forces. It is a non-bailable offence and you may be held criminally liable," police said.

The protesting farmers have outrightly rejected the BJP-led Centre's proposal for procuring pulses, maize and cotton at MSP by government agencies for five years. This was proposed in the fourth round of talks.

Talks between the farmer leaders and three Union ministers -- Mr Munda, Piyush Goyal and Nityananad Rai -- were held on February 8, 12, 15 and 18.

Tags: delhi farmers protest, arjun munda
Location: India, Delhi