Police lathi-charge on farmers in Karnal triggers protests in Punjab, opposition attack on Manohar Lal Khattar govt

Farmers in Punjab blocked highways for two hours on Sunday in protest against the police lathi-charge on their Haryana counterparts as the neighbouring state government defended the police action, which a farm union alleged led to one death.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday defended the police action against protesting farmers in Karnal, saying they promised a peaceful protest but hurled stones at police and blocked highways.

Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala too condemned farmers’ violence in Karnal but promised action against a duty magistrate who was caught on camera telling police to “break farmers’ heads” during their protest.

A day after the police action in Karnal, a farm union leader accused police of causing death to a farmer, allegedly injured in the lathi-charge, but Karnal Inspector General of Police Mamta Singh refuted the allegation, saying that he died of natural causes.

Owing allegiance to various farmer bodies, the protesters in Punjab burnt effigies of the BJP-led Haryana government for using “force” on farmers in Karnal.

Around 10 people were allegedly injured on Saturday as police lathi-charged a group of farmers disrupting traffic movement on a national highway while heading towards Karnal to protest against a BJP meeting.

The two-hour-long agitation in Punjab that started at 12 noon also inconvenienced commuters, who got stuck in traffic snarls at several places.

The protest disrupted vehicular traffic at many places and affected routes along the Jalandhar-Pathankot highway, Ludhiana-Chandigarh highway, Amritsar-Ganganagar highway and Ferozepur-Zira road.

Khattar on Sunday defended the police action against protesting farmers in Karnal, saying they promised a peaceful protest but hurled stones at police and blocked highways.

Khattar made the assertion in Karnal amid the opposition’s attack on his government over the police lathi-charge.

“If they had to protest, they should have done it peacefully, no one would have any objection to that. They had earlier assured that they will hold peaceful protests. But if they hurl stones at police, block highways, the police have to take steps to maintain law and order,” said Khattar.

Among the Opposition leaders, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu also condemned the police action in Karnal against the farmers, saying it was an attack on the fundamental rights of every Indian.

“Deplorable assault on the protesting farmers is an attack on Fundamental Rights of every Indian … earned after innumerable sacrifices during the freedom struggle, It impinges and impedes on the spirit of the Constitution and Breaks the Backbone of India’s democracy !!,” Sidhu tweeted.

Haryana BKU (Chaduni) chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni, meanwhile, claimed a farmer, Sushil, died of a heart attack after suffering injuries in the lathi-charge in Karnal.

Karnal IGP Mamta Singh, however, refuted Chaduni’s allegations, saying the deceased farmer was not among the injured.

The farmer had his food at his home in the evening and went to sleep but was found dead in the morning, she said.

“The family did not even lodge any complaint nor was any postmortem done. The cremation was done by the family,” she added.

Chaduni, meanwhile, on Sunday said a meeting of farmer leaders will be held in Karnal on Monday to discuss the future course of action in reply to the police lathi-charge.

BKU leader Rakesh Tikait too met some of the injured protesters in a Karnal hospital on Monday.

Condemning farmers’ violence in Karnal, Chautala also promised action against a duty magistrate, a 2018-batch IAS officer, who was caught on camera telling police to “break farmers’ heads” during their protest.

“The IAS officer’s video has gone viral. Using such language by an IAS officer is condemnable,” said Chautala.

“Definitely, whatever action is deemed fit, the government will take it,” he said.

The deputy chief minister, however, also condemned the farmers’ violence, including stone-pelting, during their protest in Karnal.

“The kind of action which was seen from the other side (by protesting farmers), do you support that?” he asked reporters.

He said he was “saddened by the events”, but questioned the ultimate motive of farmer leaders.

“I am saddened by the events, but I want to ask through the media where are those 40 (farmer union) leaders…after all what is their ultimate motive,” Dushyant asked reporters. PTI SUN CHS VSD RAX RAX



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