Angry over lathicharge on protesters in Karnal, farmers block highways in Haryana for nearly 5 hours, commuters suffer
Long queues of vehicles could be seen on all the highways and even on the link roads as people were seen struggling to reach their destinations. People also remained stranded in the traffic jams in villages as the police diverted the traffic on the link roads
Angry over lathicharge on protesters in Karnal, farmers on Saturday blocked major highways and link roads in Haryana for nearly five hours giving commuters a harrowing time.
The blockade was lifted at 7.30 pm. The call to block highways was in response to a lathicharge by police on a group of farmers at Bastara toll plaza on NH 44 near Karnal. The police action drew sharp criticism with Opposition leaders slamming the state government.
Members of different farm unions had assembled at the Bastara toll plaza as chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar chaired a state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) meeting at a private hotel ahead of the upcoming local polls, people aware of the matter said.
The police said Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which bans the assembly of five or more people, was imposed in the area, which made the farmers’ gathering “unlawful”. According to the police, they made repeated announcements to the farmers to disperse but they were adamant on moving towards the venue of the BJP meeting. All roads leading to the venue were heavily barricaded. The farmers said the police started beating the protesters without any provocation, injuring at least 10. “Many farmers were injured after police brutally lathicharged them without any provocation. Some even could be seen with blood all over their clothes,” Haryana Bhartiya Kisan Union (Charuni) chief Gurnam Singh Charuni said.
The police, however, denied the charge. ADGP law and order Navdeep Virk released a video saying that the farmers had first attacked the police and hurled stones when the police tried to stop them at the toll plaza. “The police had to use mild force as four farmers and 10 police officials sustained injuries in the clash”, he added.
Farmers agitating against the central farm laws have been staging protests near the public functions of the state’s ruling BJP- Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) combine in Haryana since last year.
Later, Charuni said: “The police have released the farmers and we have decided to open the blockade but the next decision about the agitation will be taken during a meeting in Karnal on Monday.”
Traffic on all major roads disrupted
The movement of traffic remained affected on NH 44, Delhi-Chandigarh, Hisar-Ambala-Chandigarh, Kurukshetra-Pehowa-Patiala, Panipat-Rohtak, Kurukshetra-Kaithal, Karnal-Yamunanagar and Kurukshetra-Yamunanagar routes forcing the authorities to divert the vehicles on link roads. The Milk Majra toll plaza connecting Ambala with Yamunanagar and further with Uttar Pradesh was also blocked, while traffic movement was disrupted on Shambu border at Punjab-Haryana border too.
Long queues of vehicles could be seen on all the highways and even on the link roads as people were seen struggling to reach their destinations. People also remained stranded in the traffic jams in villages as the police diverted the traffic on the link roads. “I remained stuck in the traffic for more than three hours and travelled 50km extra to return to my home”, said Praveen Kumar, a Karnal resident.
BKU (Charuni) spokesperson Rakesh Bains said four farmers with serious injuries have been hospitalised at the civil hospital in Karnal and three of them are critical.
Khattar said that nobody should create a hurdle in the programme of others. “They were allowed to raise their issue in a democratic way and peacefully. If they pelted police with stones and blocked roads the action was initiated by the police,” the CM said.
Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda condemned the lathicharge and tweeted: “The action on farmers at Karnal is undemocratic and inhuman. Everyone has the right to protest in a democracy. Governments are not run with fear of the bullet but by winning hearts.”
‘Crack the heads’ of farmers: Haryana official in a viral video
Chandigarh A video showing a top district official in Haryana asking policemen to “crack the heads” of the farmers who try to cross the barricades has surfaced on social media. In the video, Karnal’s sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Ayush Sinha is purportedly seen standing in front of a group of policemen and instructing them to not allow the farmers to cross the barricades.
“You don’t need anyone’s direction, just crack their heads and thrash them hard if they try to cross the barricade,” he can be heard as saying in the video. HT could not independently verify the authenticity of the video. htc