New Delhi: The latest skirmish between farmers protesting against the three farm laws and the Bharatiya Janata Party workers in Dabwali in Sirsa district of Haryana has been testament to the fact that the protests will take centre stage as BJP prepares for the upcoming panchayat and civic body elections in the state.
In the face-off, in which the arm of one BJP worker was broken and the clothes of another torn, while a farmer also sustained injuries also reflects the fact that farmers are unlikely to be deterred by threats.
The incident took place on Monday, July 5, when BJP’s district president Aditya Chautala had organised a meeting at Saraswati Vidya Mandir in Dabwali to prepare cadre for the city council polls. Farmers had decided to hold a protest near the venue. They raised slogans against the farm laws and against BJP for not repealing them.
The BJP activists, including one identified as Suresh (whose clothes were torn), were headed for the meeting when the farmers stopped them from proceeding to the venue. At this an altercation ensued and some of the party workers and a farmer were injured. While the BJP accused the protesters of unprovoked violence, the protesters contended that they were abused by the party activists first.
It’s been nine months of farmers agitation in Sirsa, Haryana. Dhirkar rally was organized by SKM and Joginder Singh Ugrahan said, “If farmers are not sitting on the borders, why don’t BJP leaders go out in Punjab & Haryana.#FarmersProtest pic.twitter.com/fk7qQcX2k9
— BKU EKTA UGRAHAN (@Bkuektaugrahan) July 6, 2021
The state has witnessed several incidents of violence between workers and leaders of BJP or its ally, the Jannayak Janata Party, on the one hand and the protesting farmers on the other. Most of these skirmishes have taken place when the party workers were on their way to either a meeting venue or their residence.
Protests have targeted BJP-JJP leaders on many occasions
Last month two farmers, Ravi Azad and Vikas Sisar, were arrested on a complaint filed by Tohana’s JJP MLA Devender Singh Babli, who had claimed that along with others, the duo had attacked his vehicle, causing damage and injuries to his personal assistant.
However, as farmers, led by Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait, protested against the arrests, Babli withdrew the complaint leading to the release of the accused. He also apologised to the farmers for using harsh words against them.
Earlier in May, the protesting farmers had similarly shown black flags and surrounded wrestler-turned-MLA Babita Phogat of the BJP in Charkhi Dadri. Farmers had also last month tried to stop Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar from reaching a COVID-19 care centre at Hisar for its inauguration.
In January too, they had stopped him from attending a public meeting in Karnal. In March, they had blocked the way of deputy CM and JJP leader Dushyant Chautala while he was returning home.
First came the apologies, then the threats
For a while, following Babli’s apology, and a similar one tendered by Jind MLA Krishan Midha over “objectionable remarks” after farmers protested against Khattar’s visit to his constituency, it seemed that the BJP and JJP were moving towards a conciliation.
However, the past month has only seen them harden their stance against the farmers.
In May, Khattar urged the protesting farmers to allow the implementation of the new farm laws and a month later the two sides once again appeared to be on the warpath.
First Haryana home minister Anil Vij – who had earlier stated that farmers had the right to protest but should not disrupt another person’s programme – claimed that there was a “secret agenda” behind the farmers’ protest. He said the farmer leaders have not provided any reasonable arguments against the farm laws while seeking their repeal. He also declared that violence would be dealt with sternly.
‘No longer a farmers agitation but a political one’
Then Deputy CM Chautala said last month that while the agitation had started as one by the farmers, now only political people remained a part of it. “Someone wants to become a part of the zila parishad (district council) while someone else wants to win the post of sarpanch. While someone wants to float his own party, another wants to support some other party. This agitation is now confined to only opposing the Haryana government – and opposing BJP-JJP,” he said.
He said when the agitation began, the farmers had three demands, that mandis should continue to operate, procurement should be on MSP and no land should be acquired. “But while all these demands are allegedly being fulfilled, the protests are going on,” Chautala alleged.
Farmers vow to keep fighting
In the last week of June, 50 khaps of Haryana declared that they would intensify their agitation against the three controversial farm laws and announced a march to Delhi to mount pressure on the Centre to repeal them.
Meanwhile, activist and Samyukta Kisan Morcha leader Yogendra Yadav also stated that the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were afraid of the farm agitation and had no choice but to taking back these “black laws”.
Another meeting of the protesting farmers was held under the banner of Kisan Mazdoor Bhaichara Panchayat at Nuh in Haryana. It also resolved to spread the agitation against the BJP-led governments for their anti-people policies and declared that the farmers fight was for ‘zameen’ (land) and ‘zameer’ (conscience).
A resolution was also passed at the meeting through a show of hands that politics of hate and division will not be allowed to succeed.
Khattar renews threat
With the protesting farmers not relenting, CM Khattar also said last week that farmer unions should not remain adamant on repeal of the farm laws. He also claimed that only a “handful of people” were opposed to these laws and that they were “in reality not farmers”.
“The real farmers have no objection with the farm laws, they are happy,” said Khattar.
The CM also criticised the protesters for targeting the BJP-JJP leaders personally in the state.
A day after Khattar’s statement, Vij again took a swipe at the protesting farmers saying they come up with a new programme every day to keep their agitation going. He also accused the Congress of supporting the agitation.
In return, former chief minister and Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda of the Congress accused the government of not listening to the farmers and forcing them to sell their crops below MSP in the mandis. He also criticised the BJP-JJP government for using police force to silence the protests.