Hundreds of farmers marched on the police station in Haryana’s Tohana Saturday to protest police raids and the arrest of three of their colleagues after a spat with JJP MLA Devendra Babli, whose party 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.
Devendra Babli was on his way to inaugurate a Covid vaccination camp when the row broke out.
Protesting farmers have long demanded MLAs – whom they claim may try to sway protesters to their side – stay within their constituencies – a point of friction with the government, which says elected officials cannot be stopped from interacting with the people – or face protests.
Devendra Babli has since apologised for his comments, and farmer leader Rakesh Tikait has indicated that the protesting farmers had accepted his apology.
On Thursday, farmers had burnt an effigy of the MLA and demanded he apologise for his “comments”.
Two FIRs had 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.
Farmers have also said they will surround police stations across Haryana if the MLA does apologise.
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. The government maintains the three laws are pro-farmer.
Several rounds of talks have failed to break the deadlock.
A central panel last met farmers’ leaders on January 22. There have been no talks since January 26, when a tractor rally in the national capital turned violent.
With input from PTI