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Haryana Passes Contentious Bill Seeking Damages from Protesters, Cong Says BJP 'Stifling Freedom'

Women, including widows of farmers believed to have killed themselves over debt attend a protest against farm bills at Tikri border.

Women, including widows of farmers believed to have killed themselves over debt attend a protest against farm bills at Tikri border.

The bill has been passed at a time when the Haryana government is planning to crack down on alleged illegal construction being carried out by agitators at protest sites along the Delhi border.

Days after a resolution was passed in the Haryana assembly against boycotting political leaders, the passage of another controversial legislation by the BJP government has set off a political slugfest. The ‘Haryana Recovery of Damages to Property During Disturbance to Public Order Bill’, which proposes recovery from protesters indulging in damage to property during agitations, has been passed by the state assembly amid protests by the Opposition.

The Congress has alleged that the law is being brought in to target farmers who are agitating against the Centre’s farm laws. The Opposition has termed the bill draconian with an ulterior design to go after the farmers.

Incidentally, the bill has been passed at a time when the Haryana government is planning to crack down on alleged illegal construction being carried out by agitators at protest sites along the Delhi border.

The Haryana authorities have lodged FIRs against farmers for constructing structures at protest sites. The Bill that has been passed by the assembly says – “There have been various past and recent instances of mob violence where there was large-scale destruction, burning, looting of public and private property, injury or loss of lives during disturbances to public order by an assembly, lawful or unlawful, including riots and violent disorder, etc., and thereof. The state government is supposed to take all preventive, remedial measures so that such incidents are not repeated and public order is maintained. To prevent the recurrence of such circumstances, there should be a legal framework to cause deterrence in the minds of the perpetrators of violence.’’

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Leader of the Opposition, Bhupinder Singh Hooda alleged that the Bill had been brought to take away citizens’ right of peaceful protests by scaring them.

He pointed out that there was already enough provisions in the Indian Penal Code to deal with the damage to property and this Bill only brought the hidden intentions of the ruling BJP.

Defending the government’s move, Home Minister Anil Vij said that the government had been contemplating about the enactment of this law much before the farmers’ agitation began. “By making such statements the Congress is only making it amply clear that it was on the side of the rioters,’’ said Vij.

first published:March 19, 2021, 20:00 IST