Around 10 people were injured Saturday as police allegedly lathicharged a group of farmers disrupting traffic movement on a highway while heading towards Karnal to protest against a BJP meeting. Besides Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, state BJP president Om Prakash Dhankar and other senior leaders of the party were present at the meeting.
The state police drew severe criticism for the action against the farmers, and several roads were blockaded at different places in protest. The affected routes included the Fatehabad-Chandigarh, Gohana-Panipat and the Jind-Patiala highways, and the Ambala-Chandigarh and the Hisar-Chandigarh national highways.
Haryana Bhartiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni alleged that the police brutally lathicharged the protesting farmers, leaving many injured. Several protesters present at the site near the Bastara toll plaza around 15 km from Karnal claimed to have witnessed 8-10 people sustain injuries in the police action.
The police, however, said only mild force was used as the protesters were blocking the highway, affecting traffic movement. Farmers protesting the central farm laws have been opposing public functions of the BJP-JJP combine in Haryana. Several farmers had gathered at the Bastara toll plaza near Karnal, responding to a call given by the BKU.
Citing section 144 of the CrPC imposed in the area banning assembly of five or more people, the police made several announcements over loud speakers, declaring the gathering by the protesters "unlawful". Initially, they asked the farmers to disperse, but resorted to force as the protesters refused to budge.
The police said the protesters were bent on moving towards the venue of the BJP meeting in Karnal. All roads leading to the venue had been heavily barricaded. "Many farmers were injured after police brutally lathicharged them without any provocation. Some even could be seen with blood all over their clothes," Chaduni said, strongly condemning the police action.
He said that as part of their ongoing agitation against the farm laws, the farmers had decided to hold a peaceful protest against BJP leaders, for which they had assembled at the Bastara toll plaza. The use of force by the police invited severe criticism from various political parties. Strongly condemning the action, senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted, "Khattar Sahab, today you have rained lathis on Haryanvis' soul coming generations will remember the blood of farmers which has been spilled on the roads." Indian National Lok Dal senior leader Abhay Singh Chautala also strongly condemned the police action.
Swaraj India president and key leader of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha Yogendra Yadav said the lathicharge exposed the true face of the Haryana Police. "They (farmers) were protesting against the visit of CM Khattar and other BJP leaders to Karnal. This is the true face of Haryana police," Yadav tweeted.
“General Dyer Government"
Congress condemned the lathicharge on farmers and likened the BJP-LJP regime in Haryana to the “General Dyer government". Congress leader Rahul Gandhi shared a picture on Twitter of a farmer with blood-soaked clothes after the lathicharge and said the image has shamed India.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi shared a picture on Twitter of a farmer with blood-soaked clothes after the lathicharge and said the image has shamed India.
“Once again the blood of farmers is shed, India’s head bows in shame," he said in a tweet in Hindi, using the hashtags “#FarmersProtest" and “Anti-farmer BJP". Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala condemned the attack and dubbed the BJP-JJP regime as the “General Dyer government".
He shared pictures of injured farmers in blood-soaked clothes on Twitter and put out a video of an officer purportedly giving instructions to policemen to beat up the farmers. Surjewala claimed the officer was the duty magistrate of Karnal. “CM-Dy CM’s conspiracy to attack farmers in Karnal is clear from the orders of the Duty Magistrate, who is ordering the police to break the heads of farmers and lash them with sticks. BJP-JJP is the ‘General Dyer’ government," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
“Khattar Sahib, Today in Karnal sticks have been blown on the soul of every Haryanvi. The oppression of the sinful BJP government that bleeds farmers is like demons. The coming generations will remember the blood from farmers’ bodies flown on the streets," the Congress leader said in another tweet. “No more pleas, now there will be war - till life or death," he said.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra shared pictures of the injured farmers on Facebook. “Farmers with their hard work grow bountiful crops in their fields and when ask for their rights, the BJP government bleeds them by wielding batons. Every blow dealt to farmers will serve as a nail in the coffin of the BJP," she wrote on the social media platform.
Another Congress spokesperson, Jaiveer Shergill, tweeted, “The manner in which farmers of Haryana were brutally beaten and order to break their heads were given no doubt that BJP Government should be called ‘General Dyer Government’."