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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 24 April 2024

Farmers temporarily suspend march plan to Delhi after talks offer

Agriculture minister Arjun Munda’s offer for talks came minutes after the 'Delhi Chalo' protest was to resume from Shambhu and Khanauri at 11am

Anita Joshua New Delhi Published 22.02.24, 06:12 AM
A tear-gas shell explodes near the protesting farmers during the Delhi Chalo march at the Shambhu border near Ambala on Wednesday.

A tear-gas shell explodes near the protesting farmers during the Delhi Chalo march at the Shambhu border near Ambala on Wednesday. PTI picture.

Protesting farmers on Wednesday evening decided to temporarily suspend their plans to march to Delhi from the Punjab-Haryana border in view of the fresh offer of talks from the Centre and chaos at the protest sites in Shambhu and Khanauri after a protester was killed and several injured in police action during the day.

The day also saw the BJP governments at the Centre and in Haryana heap pressure on the AAP government in Punjab for allowing the mobilisation of farmers with heavy machinery and projecting it as the “deteriorating law and order situation in Punjab”. This resulted in a war of words amid a warning by the Haryana police to owners and operators of excavators and poclains to withdraw their vehicles from the protest sites or face criminal action.

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Agriculture minister Arjun Munda’s offer for talks came minutes after the “Delhi Chalo” protest was to resume from Shambhu and Khanauri at 11am. The farmers had planned to move with the machines to remove the barricades and make way for the protesters to march when Munda’s offer came.

The Punjab police also joined efforts to convince the farmers to reconsider their decision to move towards Delhi and accept Munda’s offer for talks.

While the deliberations were going on between the Punjab police and the farmer union leaders at the Shambhu border on the modalities for the next round of talks, word spread about the death of a farmer from Bhatinda at the Khanauri border site where the Haryana police are alleged to have fired several rounds of teargas shells and rubber bullets.

The death of 21-year-old Shubh Karan Singh has been denied by the Haryana police. In turn, they accused the farmers of mixing chilli powder in the stubble and setting it afire, hurling stones and attacking the cops with sticks. A dozen police personnel are said to have been injured.

Members of the Sikh community hold a demonstration in front of the BJP's central office in Calcutta on Wednesday against the party leaders' remark against the IPS officer.

Members of the Sikh community hold a demonstration in front of the BJP's central office in Calcutta on Wednesday against the party leaders' remark against the IPS officer. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Upset by the news of the death of one of their own in Khanauri, farmer leaders locked their arms and walked towards the barricades wearing gas masks. The Haryana police responded with teargas and rubber pellets. In the melee that followed, some of the union leaders were reported to have been injured. Also, there were reports of impatience with the farmer leaders for not proceeding onward and “falling for the delaying tactics” of the government.

While some semblance of calm returned to the protest sites by the evening, the war of words between Haryana and Punjab, and the Centre and Punjab continued.

Bristling at the Union home ministry’s advisory to the Punjab government asking it to maintain law and order in the state, chief secretary Anurag Verma wrote back “that it is incorrect to state that the Government of Punjab has allowed a gathering of a large number of persons at the borders of Shambhu and Dhabi-Gujran as the groups of farmers which had set off for Delhi in order to hold a protest, were restrained and stopped from crossing over to Haryana, by use of force, by the State police of Haryana”.

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