Hundreds of farmers marched on the police station in Haryana’s Tohana Saturday to court arrest in protest of the arrest of three of their colleagues, and raids on their camps and homes, after a spat with local MLA Devendra Babli of the JJP, which is allied with the ruling BJP.
The farmers – led by top leaders like Rakesh Tikait and Gurnam Singh Chaduni, and marching with the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which is leading the year-long protest against the centre’s farm laws – allege Devendra Babli used abusive language while they were protesting in Tohana on Tuesday.
Babli has denied the charges and instead accused a group of farmers of launching a “murderous attempt” on his life. He was on his way to inaugurate a vaccination camp when the row broke out; protesting farmers have long demanded MLAs stay within their constituencies or face protests.
Reports say Devendra Babli is in talks with farmer leaders at the Balliala Rest House in Tohana.
On Thursday, farmers burnt an effigy of the MLA and demanded he apologise for his “comments”.
Two FIRs have been registered against the protesters in connection with the clashes in Tohana on Tuesday, in which farmers surrounded Devendra Babli’s vehicle. Farmers were booked for manhandling the MLA. A third was registered after farmers surrounded his home the following day.
Also on Wednesday, farmers warned they would surround police stations across the state on Monday if Devendra Babli did not offer an apology – Sunday – for his alleged remarks.
Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni has appealed to protesters to agitate in a peaceful manner.
“We don’t have to take any such step that will break this agitation. This agitation is at that stage that one small lapse can cost us heavily. We have to continue in a peaceful manner,” he said.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday said he had no problem with farmers launching protests, but cautioned them against “taking law and order into one’s hands”.
“… if any protest is held in a peaceful manner, the government has no objection to it. However, if anyone takes law and order into one’s hands, that will not be tolerated,” he was quoted by PTI.
“And whatever action needs to be taken as per law in those cases, Deputy Commissioners have been told not to hesitate and take action,” he added.
A day earlier Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij issued a similar warning.
Farmers have been protesting the farm laws – which they say will leave them at the mercy of corporate interests – since June last year. Several rounds of talks have failed to break the deadlock.
A government panel met farmers’ leaders on January 22. There have been no talks between the two sides since January 26 when the farmers’ tractor rally in the national capital turned violent.
The government, however, has maintained that the three central laws are pro-farmer.
With input from PTI