The Haryana police on Tuesday resorted to lathicharge and used water cannons to disperse protesting farmers after they blocked National Highway-44 near Kurukshetra for more than six hours over demands for government procurement of sunflower seeds at the minimum support price (MSP).
The protests which led to the blocking of the Delhi-Chandigarh national highway in front of the Shaheed Udham Singh memorial was held under the aegis of Bhartiya Kisan Union. BKU Chief Gurnam Singh Charuni was among three farmer leaders detained by police.
The police took action following the Punjab and Haryana High Court directive on Tuesday stating the highway be kept open for the free flow of traffic.
While the police justified their crackdown by citing the court order, the court specifically stated that the administration should exercise maximum restraint and resort to the use of force only as a last resort to disperse the gathered “mob.”
According to Kurukshetra Superintendent of Police (SP) S S Bhoria, the court order was given to BKU chief Charuni, but the protesters did not budge.
The protesters were warned to evacuate the highway, but they declined to do so. As a result, the police employed water cannons and employed lathi charge to disperse the demonstrators, he said.
Deputy Commissioner Shantanu Sharma also said the farmers were warned before the “mild force was used by police” for obstructed NH-44.
Meanwhile farm union leader from Kurukshetra, Parminder Kamboj told the Indian Express that the police deployed water cannons and resorted to lathi charge while the farmers were peacefully sitting on the highway. Kamboj said prominent farmer leaders, including Chaduni, Karam Singh Mathana and Rakesh Bains, have been taken into custody by the authorities.
Following the dispersal of farmers from the highway after the police crackdown, more than 400 of them initiated a sit-in protest on the Shahabad-Ladwa road, demanding the release of the detained farmer leaders. A group of farmers also blocked the Kaithal-Ambala road to express their discontent with the lathi charge.
The Congress criticised the Haryana government for employing force against the farmers.
Senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda said, “The lathicharge on farmers is highly condemnable. Is asking for MSP a crime? Farmers are forced to sell a crop having an MSP of Rs 6,400 per quintal at Rs 4,000 to Rs 4,500.” The former chief minister also demanded that the detained farmer leaders be released immediately.
Senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said, the “merciless lathicharge” on farmers has exposed the Khattar government’s “hatred” towards them.” He further added, “This oppression will not be tolerated anymore.”
(With inputs from PTI)