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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 16 April 2024

Farmer killed as police fire tear gas to disperse protesters at Punjab-Haryana border

Farmer leader Baldev Singh Sirsa identified the victim as Subhkaran Singh (21), who died at Khanauri on the Sangrur-Jind border

PTI Chandigarh Published 21.02.24, 07:31 PM
Protesting farmers disperse after a tear gas firing during their 'Delhi Chalo' march, near the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu Border, in Patiala district

Protesting farmers disperse after a tear gas firing during their 'Delhi Chalo' march, near the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu Border, in Patiala district PTI

A farmer was killed and a few others injured on the Punjab-Haryana border as protesters resumed their 'Delhi Chalo' agitation, with Haryana Police firing tear gas shells to thwart attempts to breach barricades at Shambhu and Khanauri.

Farmer leaders had rejected a proposal made by the government in the fourth round of talks between the two sides to break the deadlock and announced that thousands of Punjab farmers camping at these two border points would resume their agitation on Wednesday morning.

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Earlier in the day, Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, who is among the three Union ministers engaging with the farmer leaders, called for further talks and appealed to the protesters to maintain peace.

Farmer leader Baldev Singh Sirsa identified the victim as Subhkaran Singh (21), who died at Khanauri on the Sangrur-Jind border. Singh was a resident of Baloke village in Punjab's Bathinda district, he said.

Patiala-based Rajindra Hospital's medical superintendent H S Rekhi told reporters that three people, one of them dead, were brought to the hospital from Khanauri. The deceased had an injury to his head and the other two are stable, Rekhi said.

The farmers claimed that Haryana police personnel fired rubber bullets, besides tear gas shells.

To press the Centre to accept their demands, including a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) for crops and farm debt waiver, the farmers are camping at the border points since February 13 along with their tractor-trolleys, mini-vans and pickup trucks.

Heavy earthmoving equipment, including excavators, and modified tractors were also seen at the protest sites, with police cautioning that these might be used to break barricades and cause harm to security personnel. During the last round of talks, which ended past midnight Sunday, the panel of three Union ministers had proposed buying five crops -- moong dal, urad dal, tur dal, maize and cotton -- from farmers at MSP for five years through central agencies.

Police fired the tear gas shells to disperse some farmers who started moving towards the multiple layers of barricades at Shambhu and Khanauri border points.

There have been at least three rounds of tear gas shelling at Shambhu near Ambala in Haryana. A drone was also used by security personnel there to drop tear gas shells.

Many protesting farmers were seen wearing masks and glasses to protect themselves from the gas.

Drones are also being used by police to keep an eye on the activities of the farmers on the other side of the barricades. Union Agriculture Minister Munda has appealed to the protesters to maintain peace and resolve issues through discussions. He has invited the leaders for a fifth round of talks on all issues, including that related to MSP. Addressing protesters at Shambhu, farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal asked them to maintain peace and calm if they wanted to win. "Do you want to win or not?" he asked the farmers.

He also mentioned the "victory" of farmers during the 2020-21 agitation against the now-repealed farm laws.

Dallewal cautioned the farmers to be wary of elements who could damage the agitation. Earlier in the day, while speaking to reporters, he said farmers will march towards Delhi in a peaceful manner. "Our intention is not to disturb peace," Dallewal asserted.

While accusing the Centre of indulging in "delaying tactics" over the farmers' demands, Dallewal said it should take a decision in their favour.

He also condemned the government for installing multiple layers of barricades at the Punjab-Haryana border points to prevent the farmers from heading towards Delhi.

In a post on X, the Haryana Police asked owners of excavators to withdraw their machines from the protest sites. If they do not do so, action will be taken, it said.

"For owners and operators of poclains, JCBs: Please do not provide your equipment to the protestors and withdraw them from the protest site if already done, as they may be used to cause harm to security forces. It is a non-bailable offence and you may be held criminally liable," police said in a post on X.

The Haryana Police on Tuesday had urged its Punjab counterpart to seize bulldozers and other earthmoving equipment from the inter-state border points, saying protesters might use these to break barricades.

These could pose a threat to security forces, Haryana Director General of Police Shatrujeet Kapoor had said in an urgent communication to his Punjab counterpart Gaurav Yadav.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha are spearheading the 'Delhi Chalo' march to press the government to accept the farmers' demands.

Talks between the farmer leaders and three Union ministers -- Piyush Goyal, Munda and Nityananad Rai -- have been held on February 8, 12, 15 and 18.

The farmers are also demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, pension for farmers and farm labourers, no hike in electricity tariff, withdrawal of police cases and "justice" for the victims of the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, and compensation to the families of the farmers who died during a previous agitation in 2020-21.

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