Farmers’ Karnal siege drives Haryana govt to unease

A tense stand-off between protesting farmers and the administration at Karnal is the latest flashpoint in peasants’ agitation against contentious farm laws. The trigger: Police lathi charge and local SDM’s controversial ‘crack their heads’ instruction to police against farmers. Pawan Sharma dissects the issue and its portents for the BJP-JJP government:
Farmers raising slogans during a sit-in outside the mini-secretariat in Karnal on Wednesday. (Manoj Dhaka/HT)
Farmers raising slogans during a sit-in outside the mini-secretariat in Karnal on Wednesday. (Manoj Dhaka/HT)
Published on Sep 09, 2021 01:40 AM IST
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The row

At the centre of the latest round of confrontation between the farmers and the government is the 2018-batch IAS officer Ayush Sinha. The farmers’ grouse against Sinha is that he, as per a viral video clip, directed police to ‘crack their heads’ if farmers breached the security cordon during the August 28 meeting of the BJP in Karnal. Another contentious issue is the death of one peasant, Sushil Kajal (45) of Raipur Jattan village of Gharaunda sub-division of Karnal district, allegedly as a result of the lathi charge. “Because we do not have a postmortem report or MLR that is why we are seeking compensation, otherwise we would have demanded FIR under section 302 against cops and other officers,” farmer leader Yogendra Yadav said. However, the BKU (Haryana) leader Gurnam Singh Charuni refused to speak on this issue. Hence, linked to any positive outcome of Karnal standoff are three sticky points: Action against the IAS officer; 25 lakh compensation to the kin of farmer who died, and 2 lakh each to injured farmers.

Farmers’ demand against IAS officer

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmers’ outfits spearheading the stir against the farm laws, has been demanding to register a murder case against IAS officer Sinha. Now, apparently realising that the government is unlikely to buckle under such pressures, the SKM leaders are pressing for suspension of the IAS officer while also seeking an inquiry into the the role of Sinha as SDM Karnal in the run up to police baton charge on August 28.

Government’s stand

Right from the beginning, the government has been stoutly defending the officer and police action. Though chief minister had admitted that Sinha’s choice of words was wrong, he defended the police action. Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala, however, had condemned Sinha’s instructions to the police. After transferring Sinha out of Karnal, the state government doesn’t appear in a mood to accept farmers demand about punitive action against him and others. Government sources say, to break the logjam, the government may agree to hold an inquiry into the lathi charge incident. The government is also open for talks on farmers’ demand for compensation.

Karnal SP Ganga Ram Punia says there is no evidence to prove that Sushil Kajal had died as result of injuries received during the lathi charge.

The government has been questioning the veracity of this (death) claim, saying why the farmer who died was not taken to hospital for first aid if he was injured so severely in police action and why the postmortem was not conducted to ascertain cause of the death?

(Text by Pawan Sharma and Neeraj Mohan)

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Monday, October 25, 2021