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Agriculture

Police Use Tear Gas on Protesting Farmers at Punjab-Haryana Border

Farmers were breaking and removing barricades at the border when the police fired tear gas at them.

Jalandhar: Chaos prevailed at the Punjab-Haryana Shambu border on Tuesday (February 13) afternoon, after the Haryana police fired tear gas at protesting farmers. The farmers are trying to reach the national capital for their ‘Delhi Chalo’ protest, and were breaking and removing barricades at the border when the police fired tear gas at them.

Reports of farmers being detained by the Haryana police were also doing the rounds in the chaos. However, there is no official confirmation either from the farmers’ unions or the Haryana police about this yet. Farmers on a long cavalcade of over 3,000 tractor trailers were seen running helter-skelter to save themselves at the Shambu border, on the Punjab side. The Haryana police has also deployed drones to keep a watch and record the farmers’ protest.

Farmers could be seen covering their faces with clothes and masks to save themselves from the tear gas. The farmers a waiting for union leaders to reach the Shambu border, after which they will cross over to Delhi.

In a video shared by farmers, many could be seen finding it hard to breathe. “We are finding it hard to breathe and have stopped for a while. For the time being, we have been asked by the farmer union leaders to stop till they give us the green signal to move ahead,” said a group of farmers in a video.

A young farmer, who was at the front near the Shambu border, said, “This is not the China or Pakistan border but look how the Modi government has barricaded the entire border. We are not asking for anything unjust. It is our legitimate right.”

The call for Delhi Chalo was given by the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM) and Samyukt Kisan Morcha (non-political) led by Sarvan Singh Pandher and Jagjit Singh Dallewal, respectively, and other unions. Before leaving for Delhi, the farmers also held a press conference.

Meanwhile, as per a report in the BBC, the Delhi Police has laid multi-layered blocks at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders, which are the key intersections to reach Delhi on the road from Punjab and Haryana. The Delhi Police has also installed CCTV cameras at multiple locations at these three sites.

During the farmers’ protest 2020, farmers had set up tents and parked their tractor-trailers at these borders for over a year.

Contrary to the Haryana police’s action, the Punjab Police was seen facilitating the farmers’ march at various locations and ensured that both the farmers and other commuters did not face any difficulty. KMM coordinator Sarvan Singh Pandher also managed the traffic. Standing on top of a moving vehicle, Pandher was seen addressing the farmers cavalcade. “Please maintain discipline and move in a line,” he kept repeating.

The Indian National Congress led by Mallikarjun Kharge lashed out at the Modi government for laying concertina wires and arranging drones, tear gas, nails and guns to counter the farmers. He said that the Union government has broken three promises which it had made to the farmers: doubling farmers’ income by 2022, implementing the Swaminathan Commission report and an MSP law. “Time has come to raise voice for 62 crore farmers of the country. Congress will raise ‘Kisan Nyay’ at Chattisgarh’s Ambikapur today. We support farmers protest,” he said.

Meanwhile from the Punjab Congress, MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira also went live on Facebook and announced that he will be proceeding towards the Shambu border to support the farmers’ agitation.

Sharing pictures of sealed borders, Khaira questioned whether this is how the government should treat farmers. “This is extreme cruelty with farmers who not only made India food sufficient, but remember its their sons who protect the borders in defence forces. Yet such barbarism against them,” he said.

The Delhi government too rejected the Union government’s proposal to convert Bawana Stadium into a temporary jail in view of the farmers’ Delhi Chalo march. Delhi government home minister Kailash Gahlot came out in support of the farmers and said, “The demands of the farmers are genuine. Secondly, it is the constitutional right of every citizen to peacefully protest. It is therefore incorrect to arrest the farmers. The Central government in fact should invite them over for talks and try to find a solution to their genuine demands. Farmers of the country are our annadata and treating them in this way by arresting them would be like rubbing salt into their wounds. We cannot be party to this decision.”

Earlier before beginning the Delhi Chalo march, KMM coordinator Sarvan Singh Pandher and Bharti Kisan Union (Shaheed Bhagat Singh) spokesperson Tejveer Singh Ambala held a press conference.

Addressing the media, Pandher said that the farmers’ protest was for the sake of the country. “Farmers are acting as opposition in the country. Anybody including the senior farmer union leaders of SKM, who led the previous farmers’ protest, are free to join us,” he said.

Tejveer Ambala said that within one hour of the late-night meeting, they had realised that the Union government had no intention of fulfilling their demands. “Our demand is an MSP guarantee law, justice for Lakhimpur Kheri victims, waiving off loans of the farmers and compensation to the victims of the farmers’ protest. We will not return home without getting these demands fulfilled,” he said.