A day after Haryana police lobbed tear gas shells at farmers on their way to Delhi, angry farmers accused the Haryana government of “behaving like a tyrant” and attacking them for no reason.
Farmers said that expired tear gas shells were used on them due to which at least three people sustained serious injuries while 30-40 farmers had breathing troubles due to toxic foam. The Rewari police denied that having used expired tear gas shells.
Farmers from Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra have been protesting at Jaisinghpur Khera, located near Shahjahanpur in Alwar district, at the Rajasthan-Haryana border, since December 13. Last Thursday, a section of farmers had crossed the barricade at Shahjahanpur and entered Rewari on the Delhi-Jaipur highway. They were joined by their counterparts from Hanumangarh and Shri Ganganagar in Rajasthan on Sunday after which they tried proceeding towards Delhi but were stopped by the Rewari police.
Over 1,000 farmers, mostly from Hanumangarh and Shri Ganganagar in Rajasthan, who were stopped from proceeding ahead, are now camping near Dharuhera.
Farmers from across the country have been protesting against the three new farm laws that were passed by the Centre in September last year. They fear that the new laws will leave them at the mercy of corporations and end the minimum support price (MSP) for important crops.
Sukhjeet Singh, a farmer from Padampur in Shri Ganganagar, who sustained injuries to his leg during Sunday’s standoff, said, “We have farmers as old as 70 years of age with us, but the police didn’t take anything into account before going on the offensive and subjecting us to expired tear gas,” said Singh. He demanded that an inquiry be initiated to investigate the alleged use of expired tear gas.
He said that the police had blocked the route by placing containers, trolleys and trucks. “They even removed the steering wheels of some trucks and deflated the tyres so that we are unable to move ahead,” said Singh.
He said that the Haryana government was being undemocratic in stopping farmers from proceeding ahead. “Are we not citizens of this country? Do we need a special ID card for the Haryana government to allow us to proceed?” said Singh.
Jalandhar Singh, a 25-year-old from Ganganagar, had sustained injuries after a tear gas shell landed on his foot. “Along with the others, I was trying to ward off the tear gas shells when one of them landed on my leg. There was no time to react. The shots were being fired one after other, “ said Singh.
Zakir Hussain, a farmer from Pir Kamariya village in Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh, said that protesters had requested the police to allow them to proceed peacefully. “The police started lobbing tear gas from the bridge above. All these shells were dated from 2017 to 2020. For nearly two hours, they continued to fire tear gas,” said Hussain.
Resham Singh, a farmer from Hanumangarh, said that the police had fired hundreds of tear gas shells and some of them had landed in trolleys with gas cylinders. He said that two trolleys had caught fire but was contained by farmers. “The police was lobbing shells from the top. One of them fell into our trolley that contained gas cylinders. There could have been a big blast but the police didn’t stop. Without any provocation, the police acted ruthlessly with us,” said Singh.
Harvinder Singh Gill, a farmer from Shri Ganganagar, said that the goal was to reach Delhi border but the Haryana police were blocking their path. Gill said that farmers would continue to camp near Dharuhera for the next two days and wait for the Supreme Court hearing and the ongoing talks, before deciding on the next course of action. “Our goal has always been to reach the Delhi borders. We will wait for the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha to decide if and when they want us to proceed. Until that, we will camp here,” said Gill.
Farmers camping at the new site were also inconvenienced due to the downpour. While those with trolleys are using their vehicles for shelter, tarpaulin tents were put in place for those without vehicles.
Hazoor Singh, a 61-year-old, sitting under a makeshift tarpaulin arrangement, said that while farmers had been protesting at Singhu and Tikri as well, the Haryana government had been the least cooperative. “The Haryana government bothers us a lot. They are lobbing tear gas shells on those who produce food. The government is being arrogant,” said Singh, a native of Jagtewala in Shri Ganganagar.
Rajesh Kumar, DSP, Bawal, said that the police did not let the farmers move ahead from their camp on Monday. Kumar said that the police was well prepared with the deployment. He denied that expired tear gas shells had been used on the protesting farmers.
Due to traffic diversions, commuters also faced trouble in reaching Dharuhera on Monday.
Neeraj Kumar, 26, said that he had to walk for 15 kilometres to reach Dharuhera. “I took a bus from Pachgaon but we couldn’t proceed ahead since the route was closed by the police. I will start walking now and hope to reach my workplace in two hours. We were not given any explanation about the diversions,” said Kumar, who works with an automobile manufacturing company.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s Haryana spokesperson, Raman Malik, said that while the government was engaging with farmers to address their concerns, it needed to maintain the law and order situation as well. “Unlike certain political leaders, who are looking towards disruption, the government is aiming towards resolving the farmers concerns in a constructive manner. The government is looking into the interests of all farmers and not a handful of farmers, and while doing so, it has to maintain the law and order situation as well, “ said Malik
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