Centre won't withdraw farm laws, says Manohar Lal Khattar after farmers vandalise kisan mahapanchayat venue
Khattar earlier on Sunday was to address a 'kisan mahapanchayat' in Haryana's Karnal district and highlight the benefits of the Centre's three agriculture laws
Speaking after he was forced to cancel an address in Karnal due to protesting farmers damaging the venue, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said he did not feel that the Centre would withdraw the farm laws, according to several media reports.
“Discussion can be held on certain points, but I do not think government is going to withdraw these laws,” Khattar told Indian Express. Referring to Sunday's events, Khattar said the protesters had “defamed farmers”, and that he believed “Congress party and Communists have a major role to play in such incidents.”
Khattar earlier Sunday was to address a 'kisan mahapanchayat' in Haryana's Karnal district and highlight the benefits of the Centre's three agriculture laws. The Haryana Police used water cannons and lobbed teargas shells to prevent farmers from marching towards Kaimla village, where the programme was to be held.
The farmers, however, reached the venue and damaged a makeshift helipad where Khattar's chopper was to land despite elaborate security arrangements made by police. Some protesters also uprooted its tiles. They damaged the programme stage, breaking chairs, tables and flower pots at the venue. Police personnel were also pelted with stones and had to run for cover.
As per Financial Express, Khattar, later speaking at a press conference, said, “Our nation has a very strong democratic setup. This allows everyone to express his or her view. We have never stopped anybody from doing this. These alleged farmers and leaders have been giving statements and were never stopped. Despite COVID-19, we made arrangements for the safety and security of those protesting against the new agri laws. But it is not right to obstruct someone who wants to speak.”
As per PTI, Khattar also accused BKU (Charuni) president Gurnam Singh Charuni, under whose banner the farmers had announced their decision to oppose the programme, of "instigating" people. “They cannot spread their wings through these agitations. I condemn today’s incident,” the Financial Express quoted the chief minister as saying.
"The ones who have instigated (violence), they should not instigate. This agitation should end here so that the poor farmers who are sitting in the cold, who are losing their lives, if I have to blame someone, I will blame those who are instigating, the people who are using such language and not allowing this matter to be solved," he added. Meanwhile, Khattar said that he feels the Centre "will not repeal" the three new farm laws.
"People had turned up. It is not like they were scared to come to the meeting but it is just some youngsters who created mischief on the helipad. I had almost arrived and would have addressed the gathering but it would have caused trouble," India Today further quoted Khattar as saying.
As per PTI, the chief minister said whatever he wanted to say to people in the kisan mahapanchayat was said by party leaders present there. To a question, Khattar denied that there was any intelligence failure behind this incident.
Farmers vandalise venue
Earlier in the day, police had made elaborate security arrangements for the chief minister's visit to the village where he was to speak to people to highlight benefits of the new farm laws.
Director-General of Police (Crime) Muhammad Akil was also present at the spot. The protesting farmers earlier carried black flags and shouted slogans against the BJP-led state government as they attempted to march towards Kaimla village.
Police put up barricades at the entry points of the village to prevent them from reaching the programme venue. However, the farmers crossed the barricade put up at Gharaunda on the Kaimla road.
Police had also parked several trucks carrying sand at one of the roads to prevent them from entering Kaimla village. Karnal Superintendent of Police Ganga Ram Punia also tried to pacify the agitators, but in vain. All farmers are here to whom the CM 'sahib' intends to explain the farm laws. We will not allow the government to hold this programme, a protester said.
The farmers criticised the state government, saying it was holding a programme over the laws at a time when farmers across the country protesting against these. The government is trying to rub salt into our wounds with this "kisan mahapanchayat", another protester added.
Some local villagers and BJP workers also had a face-off with the protesters when they reached the venue. Police also resorted to mild cane charge to disperse them.
Reacting to the incident, Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the government should avoid confrontation with farmers. "Farmers have certain apprehensions over the new farm Acts. The government should rather repeal these Acts as desired by farmers and avoid confrontation with them by holding functions like the mahapanchayat," he said.
The former chief minister reiterated his demand of convening a session of the state Assembly. "This government has lost the faith of its legislators and people. The Congress wants to bring a no-confidence motion against the Khattar government," he said.
Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja said the mahapanchayat convened by Khattar did not get support from people. "The government has lost the trust of people," she said.
AICC general secretary Randeep singh Surjewala said the proposed mahapanchayat was a "government-sponsored" event which has been shown "its true picture" by the protesters. Meanwhile, a purported video of BKU leader Gurnam Singh Charuni, making an appeal to end the arrogance of the CM by not allowing him to address the mahapanchayat, circulated on social media. On 6 January, the BKU (Charuni) had threatened to oppose the kisan mahapanchayat. Besides addressing the programme, the Haryana chief minister was also supposed to announce development works worth Rs 47 crore for Karnal.
Amid a deadlock in the government's negotiations with protesting farmer unions, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear tomorrow a clutch of pleas challenging the new farm laws as well as the ones raising issues related to the ongoing agitation at Delhi borders.
The eighth round of talks between the Centre and the farmer unions on 7 January appeared heading nowhere as the Centre ruled out repealing the contentious laws while the farmer leaders said they are ready to fight till death and their 'ghar waapsi' will happen only after 'law waapsi'.
After the eighth round of talks, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said no decision could be reached as the farmer leaders did not present alternatives to their demand for the repeal of the laws. On Saturday, a farmers' body, Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations (CIFA), moved the top court in support of the three laws and sought impleadment in the matter.
With inputs from PTI
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