Farmers halt march till Feb 29, demand action | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Farmers halt march till Feb 29, demand action

By, Patiala/new Delhi
Feb 24, 2024 04:59 AM IST

Farmers from Punjab have been stopped since February 13 at barricades put up by the Haryana government to impede their march to the national capital.

Groups leading the protests by farmers from Punjab have decided to extend their pause on marching to the national capital till February 29, as they turned their focus to the death of a protester earlier this week, saying they will not allow an autopsy or the cremation of the 21-year-old man till the Punjab Police files a case against police in Haryana.

Farmers take part in a candlelight vigil in tribute to a farmer who was allegedly killed in Police action at Khanauri border during their 'Delhi Chalo' march, at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border, in Patiala district, on Friday. (PTI)
Farmers take part in a candlelight vigil in tribute to a farmer who was allegedly killed in Police action at Khanauri border during their 'Delhi Chalo' march, at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border, in Patiala district, on Friday. (PTI)

The family of Shubh Karan Singh also rejected the 1 crore compensation offered by the Punjab government over his death until a first information report (FIR) was registered, and the farmer unions said there can be “no talks” with the government over the agitation itself until the police case is made.

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“The current agitation will get bigger and the march to Delhi will resume once the demand to grant martyr status for deceased farmer Shubh Karan Singh is acceded to, his autopsy is carried out, and a case is lodged against the Haryana Police,” Sarwan Singh Pandher, the leader of Kisan Mazdoor Sangh Committee (KMSC), told HT over the phone.

Later in the evening, Jagjit Singh Dallewal, the other leader at the helm of the agitation, said: “As of now, we are only focussing on justice for Shubh Karan Singh, therefore, we will not march to Delhi before February 29. The next course of action will be announced after holding a meeting, thereafter, with the leaders”.

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Officials in Punjab and Haryana separately said they were trying to determine under whose jurisdiction the case should fall, with both sides reopening land records to study the wheat fields where Singh sustained the injuries that eventually claimed his life.

While the Punjab Police did not respond to requests for details on where they have determined the jurisdiction to be, a Punjab police officer in Patiala, while asking not to be named, said the spot where Shubh Karan was injured lay within the jurisdiction of Jind, Haryana, which could mean only the police in that state may be able to file the FIR.

The station house officer of Garhi (Jind district), Suresh Kumar, told HT: “We have already checked the land records where he received injuries, and it lies in our jurisdiction. We have already sent the team to Government Rajindra Hospital in Patiala. However, we have not been allowed.”

But Dallewal, who heads the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (non-political), insisted the action should be initiated in Punjab. “Haryana Police can say whatever they want to, but that they killed Shubh Karan is a fact. Punjab Police should register a case against them,” said Dallewal. His SKM-NP is a splinter group of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is among the largest collectives of unions representing cultivators and farm labourers.

Farmers from Punjab have been stopped since February 13 at barricades put up by the Haryana government to impede their march to the national capital over a raft of demands, including a legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP) for crops.

It was at one of the two borders where farmers have stopped in the thousands where Shubh Karan died on Wednesday, of a wound ostensibly sustained by a rubber bullet fired in the police action. That day, farmers had rushed towards the barricades as they sought to resume their march to Delhi, heading towards battalions of police guarding rows of metal and concrete barricades.

Their decision was after four rounds of talks between them and the government — including three Union ministers — had failed.

“We have told the (Shubh Karan’s) family that it may take two days or 10 days. For us, money is not important. We are demanding that an FIR be lodged and then cremation will take place,” said Pandher, while speaking to reporters in Patiala, where he accused the Punjab government of “pressuring” the family into agreeing to the cremation.

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“Until Punjab Police register a case against Haryana Police officials, we won’t allow the administration to conduct the post-mortem. Money doesn’t matter to us, justice does,” said Charanjit Singh, Shubh Karan Singh’s father.

The development came hours after Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann announced a compensation of 1 crore and a government job for Shubh Karan’s sister.

“If you cannot register a case, then how can you call yourself Punjab de rakhe (Punjab’s protectors),” said Dallewal, who slammed the Mann government. Dallewal added that a police officer said that if they registered a case, Haryana security personnel would do so as well.

The farmers also sought a “martyr” status for Shubh Karan Singh.

With the protests effectively suspended from proceeding, another powerful farmer group on Friday said that it was attempting to stitch up a larger unity among cultivators. “There is negativity spreading in farmers because they want all factions to work together,” said Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni) leader Gurnam Singh Charuni, whose outfit was part of the leadership that led the 2020-2021 farm protests. “Therefore, an 11-member team will coordinate between Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) and SKM (non-political).”

In Delhi, a social activist who said he was also the managing director a Sikh trade body, filed a petition with the Supreme Court stating peaceful farmers were being subjected to conditions similar to terrorists by the Centre and some state governments, asking the court’s intervention to ensure “fair and respectful treatment” for the cultivators and to clear the blockades on the border to ensure free movement of people and vehicles.

“The actions taken by the respondent governments by creating fortification across the borders of the national capital, creating hostile and violent situations against its own peaceful citizens and not allowing the farmers to exercise their democratic right, has led to direct and indirect defamation of the intentions and the objective of the protesting farmers,” the petition contended.

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    Zia Haq reports on public policy, economy and agriculture. Particularly interested in development economics and growth theories.

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