The police thwarted attempts by farmers to stage a dharna outside the office of the inspector general of police (IGP) of the border range here on Friday in protest against the arrest of 11 of their colleagues in an alleged murder case of an ASI.
Though the police did stop farmers from reaching the IGP office, they could not stop them from staging protests at different places in and around the city. They staged dharnas at Favara Chowk, around 300 metres from the Golden Temple, near Vishal Mega Mart in Ranjit Avenue, near Chabba village on the Amritsar-Tarn Taran road and on Majitha road (near bypass).
The call for protest outside the IGP office was given by the Kisan Sangharsh Committee led by Satnam Singh Pannu, which was backed by some other kisan unions. The main demand of the farmers is the unconditional release of all the 11 farmers, including Sawinder Singh Chautala of the Kisan Sangharsh Committee.
They were arrested following the mysterious death of ASI Kulbir Singh, incharge of the Manochahal police post in Tarn Taran, near Geobala village last month. The ASI had led a police party to Geobala to detain kisan union leaders who were to take part in a statewide protest against the agriculture-related policies of the union and state governments.
The body of the ASI, who had fled after the farmers put up resistance, was found about 2 km away from the village and the post-mortem report did not indicate any external injuries.
While the kisan leaders claimed that the ASI had died due to heart attack, the police registered a case under section 304 of the IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), but later slapped murder charges (section 302) after the ASI's family alleged that he was murdered.
"We stand by our earlier statement that the ASI died due to cardiac failure. Our members were falsely implicated," claimed Pannu, reiterating his demand for a judicial inquiry by a sitting high court judge.
Pannu said 32 members of their organisation had been rounded up by the police while they were coming to Amritsar. However, the police denied the claim.
To thwart the designs of the farmers, the police swung into action around midnight. Check points were put up on all roads leading to the city to prevent them from reaching the IGP office.
A small group that had made it to the Golden Temple at night tried to go towards the IGP's office. However, they were stopped by a police party armed with batons near Favara Chowk, where they ultimately staged a dharna and shouted slogans against the state government.
Another group which was coming from Ajnala side staged a dharna in Ranjit Avenue, while another one resorted to a protest on Majitha road. A large group coming from Tarn Taran decided to sit on a dharna near Chabba village.
The kisan leaders who addressed the dharnas demanded that the state government should honour the commitments made by it to kisan leaders during the December 2012 blockade on the Beas bridge on NH-1. These demands included better prices for agricultural commodities by way of bonus by the state government, relief to the families of farmers who committed suicides due to debt, waiving of farm loans, revision of wages of agricultural labourers and higher MSP for wheat and paddy due to rise in farm input costs.
"We will not go home and will continue our dharna," Pannu said.
As the farmers squatted, cops kept a close watch on them throughout the day. Traffic at various places had to be diverted as the police had put up barricades at several places.