Several hundred farmers protesting against Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, while he was inaugurating a 500-bed hospital for COVID-19 patients on Sunday, 16 May, were lathi-charged and tear-gassed by the police. Over 70 farmers were injured and about 20 police personnel were taken to the hospital for treatment.
This is the second such face-off to take place since 10 January when in Kaimla village, farmers from Karnal had stormed the helipad where Khattar was to land.
On Sunday, as the Chief Minister landed in Hisar, farmers who have been sitting for months in protest against the three farm laws at a toll plaza in Mayyar, started marching towards the open ground venue at the OP Jindal Modern School.
Anti-government slogans were shouted by farmers, who were agitated after being held responsible for the spread of COVID-19 in villages by Khattar and other ministers.
Once the farmers reached close to the inauguration venue, they tried to break the barricades and hurled stones at the police. However, reports suggest that police engaged in stone pelting as well.
In order to disperse the farmers, the police fired tear gas shells and lathi-charged the protesting farmers. Eighty-five farmers were also detained by the police.
Rs 5,000 for Injured Police Personnel
DGP Manoj Yadava said in a tweet, “I appreciate the patience and bravery displayed today by police personnel, in confronting the unruly mob and saving the newly inaugurated Sanjeevni COVID Hospital at Hisar from damage. Each of the injured police personnel will be given Rs 5,000 for their diet and medical needs.”
Bharatiya Kisan Union President Gurnam Singh Chaduni condemned the attack on farmers and called upon them to block all national highways and gherao the office of the Inspector General of Police.
He further said, “When COVID regulations are imposed, how can a huge crowd be allowed to assemble at the venue today. Videos in social media show a crowd of over 500 persons. Why couldn’t the inauguration be done online?”
“We knew they would tarnish our image the way they did with the Tablighis. But the virus is spreading due to people working in Delhi, Gurugram and Faridabad. When they come back to villages, then it spreads,” Chaduni added.
However, after a meeting between farmer leader Rakesh Tikait and Hisar IGP Rakesh Kumar Arya, the road blockade in Haryana was lifted by 7 pm. “They (the police) have agreed not to press any charges on protesters who were held and agreed to release them. Farmer unions have said they will repair the police vehicles damaged during the clash,” Tikait said. Farmers detained by the police were released soon after.
(With inputs from The Indian Express)