More than 1,200 farmers were detained in Bathinda, Moga, Sangrur, Barnala, Muktsar and Mansa districts on Tuesday to quell a protest rally here.
Members of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugarahan) have been staging a sit-in outside the mini-secretariat here since May 23 and the farmer body had given a call for Tuesday’s state-level rally. Farmers have been demanding loan waiver and a policy to deal with suicides by debt-ridden peasants.
More than 1,000 cops were deployed at the entry points of Bathinda city to restrict farmers’ movement.
Police personnel and farmers locked horns at many places. Farmers blocked Malwa’s keys roads, including Bathinda-Patiala national highway-64 at Rampura Phul, 30km from here. The protesters also blocked Mansa-Bathinda road near Bheniwagah village, Moga-Barnala road near Bhotna village and Bathinda-Kotakpura road.
Police diverted the traffic through link roads at some places.
There were skirmishes between the cops and farmers at Bathinda’s Ghuda and Rampura villages and Bibiwala chowk. Farmers alleged police used force and fired tear-gas shells at Rampura, but senior superintendent of police Swapan Sharma refuted this. “We quelled the protest rally in Bathinda without using force,” the SSP said.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugarahan) state general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said the rally was planned to announce calling off their 49-day Bathinda dharna and the same was conveyed to the police and district administration.
He said police action came as a surprise as the cops raided at houses of several farmer union leaders in Bathinda, Moga and Mansa districts in the wee hours of Tuesday.
“We have called off our Bathinda dharna, but blockade will be lifted only when all our members are released,” Kokri said.
The SSP said detainees will be released in the evening.
The main demands of the farmers are a ban on auctioning of properties belonging to debt-ridden farmers, Rs 5-lakh compensation to the family of farmer committing suicide and government job to one of the dependants and tubewell connections to those having less than 2.5 acres of farmland.