A number of farmers were reportedly injured today after the Haryana police baton charged them for protesting at an event attended by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar even as the state extended its Covid lockdown by another week.
Farmer leaders alleged that the police had fired plastic bullets, too, and arrested several protesters. They also used tear gas to disperse the farmers who had removed barricades put up by the police.
This happened in Haryana's Hisar today. tear gas shells fired at protesting farmers while they were protesting against CM Manohar Lal Khattar who visited the district to inaugurate a covid hospital. https://t.co/TiYV5zVDNupic.twitter.com/465wSlmFPX— Mohammad Ghazali (@ghazalimohammad) May 16, 2021
Reports have also emerged of parts of a National Highway 9 being blocked by the farmers for around two hours following the incident. The Grand Trunk Road will be blocked between 3pm and 7pm by the farmers.
Later in the day, farmers sat in protest near the residence of the Hisar Inspector General amid heavy police presence.
Farmers sitting on protest near the residence of IG, Hisar police. Heavy presence of police force with barricades. pic.twitter.com/awZspMFsTm— Mohammad Ghazali (@ghazalimohammad) May 16, 2021
"I want to ask Mr Khattar. Going by the video of the event, there were more than 500 people attending. Couldn't this inauguration have been done online. Did you have to go there in person?" asked Gurnam Singh Charuni, a leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union.
"They are deliberately setting up a confrontation. They are spreading Covid and defaming us for it," Charuni said in a video message before leaving the Kundli border point between Delhi and Haryana for Hisar.
Towards evening, a 11-member team of the farmers met with the Hisar IG and the district administration to thrash out a compromise. According to the agreement they arrived at, no cases would be filed against anyone and all farmers arrested today would be freed. Each side would, on its own, bear the damages suffered, especially to vehicles, during the incident.
Following this, the farmers' plan to gherao police stations across the state on Monday was dropped and the highway blockade was ended.
Thousands of farmers have, for the past many months, been protesting against the Central government's three agricultural laws passed last year. They have camped along various points like Kundli along Delhi's border, refusing to back off despite the ongoing Covid crisis in the country.
Haryana has been under a lockdown for the past two weeks, and has now extended it by another week till May 24, owing to the pandemic. Chief Minister Khattar was in Hisar today to inaugurate a COVID-19 care centre.
On Saturday, the state reported 144 virus-related deaths and 9,676 fresh cases, pushing its infection count to 6,85,312. So far, 6,546 people have died from the infection in the state.
Condemning the baton charge against farmers, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav termed it shameful. Referring to the inauguration event attended by Mr Khattar, he tweeted: "Only the BJP can indulge in celebrations at the time of mourning".