Amid the ongoing farmers protest, Haryana DGP inspected the Data Singhwala-Khanauri border and had a meeting with police officers on Sunday morning.
Amid the ongoing farmers protest, Haryana DGP inspected the Data Singhwala-Khanauri border and had a meeting with police officers on Sunday morning. Credit- Journalist Gagandeep SIngh (Twitter)

Farmers Demand Ordinance on MSP: What’s Happening at Shambhu Border Ahead of Crucial Talk

The protesters alleged the security forces used pellet and bullet guns and smoke and petrol bombs apart from tear gas and water cannons.

Chandigarh/New Delhi: In a development that can cause further troubles for the Centre, farmers — who are engaged in a pitched battle with security forces at Shambhu border in Ambala — have demanded that the Union government bring an ordinance to ensure a legal guarantee to minimum support price (MSP) for all procurements. 

The demand came a day before the crucial fourth round of talks between farm leaders and Union ministers (Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai) is scheduled for today (February 18).

“If it (the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government in the Centre) wants a resolution of our protest and put an end to the ongoing showdown, it must issue an ordinance to enact a legislation on MSP with immediate effect. Any negotiation with its representatives can proceed further only if it does so,” Sarwan Singh Pandher — who is one of the leaders of the farmers’ collective that is leading the protest — told reporters at the Punjab-Haryana border on February 17.

He said the government can bring in the ordinance overnight if it wants to.

The ministers tasked to broker a deal with the farmers said the government does not want to make any law “in haste” on the MSP, but the talks must continue.

Meanwhile, the Haryana government has extended the ban on mobile internet and bulk SMS services in seven districts till February 19 in the wake of the agitation.

The ongoing protest is being spearheaded by a breakaway faction of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha. The faction has named itself as the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political).

Amid the ongoing farmers protest, Haryana DGP inspected the Data Singhwala-Khanauri border and had a meeting with police officers on Sunday morning.
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In 2020-21, the SKM, comprising around 44 farmer unions from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, had laid a siege on three Delhi borders (Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur) for 13 months — demanding scrapping of three controversial agricultural laws and a legal guarantee on MSP. The protest had forced the mighty government to repeal the three legislation.

Meanwhile, the SKM has taken a plunge into the protest without participating in the ongoing agitation. Rakesh Tikait of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) — a constituent of the SKM, announced that farmers would stage dharnas (sit-in) in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand on February 21 to press their demands.

The SKM has decided to give multiple calls for massive actions to intensify agitation.

A child holding a flag at the Shambu border.
A child holding a flag at the Shambu border.Pic Credit- Gagandeep SIngh (Twitter)

What’s Happening at Shambhu Border?

Compared to the first two days, the atmosphere at Shambhu (Patiala-Ambala border) was peaceful to an extent on February 17. The police and paramilitary forces deployed there to ensure the protesting farmers do not move ahead were not as aggressive as they were earlier. 

The agitating peasants — who are resolute to march towards the national capital as part of their ‘Delhi Chalo’ call — too did not attempt to move forward. They are waiting for the outcome of the scheduled meeting with the government representatives in Chandigarh. Based on what transpires following the negotiations, they said, a decision on the future course of their action would be made.

The Haryana Police along with central reserve forces has so far restricted the farmers from entering the state before reaching Delhi. Today marks the sixth day of their agitation.

Till now, three rounds of talks between the government and protesting farmers have been held, but no consensus could be reached.

The farmers alleged the government just wants to “waste time” and has no intention of accepting their demands.

They said that they would continue their agitation until their demands (legal guarantee of MSP on all crops, loan waiver, withdrawal of electricity amendment bill, pension benefits to elderly farmers, among others) are met.

“We will not step back,” they firmly told The Mooknayak when asked about their further course of action. 

With each passing day, the number of protesters is swelling. They seem to be ready for a long haul. They say they have enough ration and supplies to sustain for a year. 

There have been long queues up to three-four kilometres at the Punjab-Haryana border, with more and more farmers still reaching with their tractors, trolleys, trucks and other vehicles. 

Balwinder Singh was sitting on a truck with his friends. When asked how long he will stay there, he pointed to a stock of grain sacks, edible oil and vegetables lying on his tractor’s trolley and said, “We have ration for the whole year. We have brought flour, pulses and onions along with all the necessary items in this vehicle. We will continue to stage our dharna (sit-in) till our demands are not met,” he said.

When asked about tear gassing and rubber bullet and pellet gun firing on them by the police, he said the government is “oppressing” and trying to “provoke” them with the use of “brute” force.

Amid the ongoing farmers protest, Haryana DGP inspected the Data Singhwala-Khanauri border and had a meeting with police officers on Sunday morning.
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“We are agitating here only against the government’s betrayal. We are not raising any new demand. Whatever we are asking for was already agreed upon following a 13-month agitation (at Delhi border in 2020-21). But the promises made by the Modi government turned out to be mere lip service. The government has broken its promises and betrayed us,” he said.

The farmers’ key demands include a law to ensure MSP for all crops under the purview of Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices (CACP), debt waiver across the country, pension for farmers and labourers who are above the age of 60, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, India's withdrawal from the World Trade Organisation agreements, withdrawal of cases against them that were filed during the previous agitation, justice for the victims of Lakhimpur Kheri incident, among others.

Harwinder Singh, another protesting farmer, was miffed with the government — which, according to him, is using “excessive” force against them and treating them like “criminals” or “terrorists”.

“We are food providers, we grow food for everyone. But unfortunately, we are being treated like criminals or terrorists. The government has done multilayered barricading, rolled out concertina wire, put in place cement and concrete barriers to prevent us from going to Delhi, which is ours as well, as if we are terrorists who are going to invade the capital,” he said.

He claimed they are fighting not just for themselves but for the entire nation. “If the farmers survive, the nation will survive,” he said with a sense of pride on his face.

“Whatever we are asking for is our rights and long due, and agitating for rights is not a crime but a democratic exercise,” he said.

Punjab BJP President Sunil Jakhar on Saturday said that the ongoing talks between farmers and the center will definitely lead to effective redressal.
Punjab BJP President Sunil Jakhar on Saturday said that the ongoing talks between farmers and the center will definitely lead to effective redressal. Credit- Journalist Gagandeep SIngh (Twitter)

Are Cops Using Pellet Guns?

The protesting farmers are accusing the police of using pellet guns, petrol and smoke bombs and resorting to targeted firing of live bullets apart from tear gassing, lathicharge and rubber and plastic bullet firings. 

It has led to serious injuries, with many farmers permanently losing their eyesight. The discovery of ‘foreign particles’ in injuries have led them to allege that the security forces are using pellets.

Showing a pellet, which was just removed at the protest site without administration of anesthesia from the body of a 60-year-old farmer, Dr Navdeep Singh, who is associated with Khalsa Aid and was engaged in the surgical procedure, appealed to the government not to use such lethal weapons.

“There are around 40-50 pellets in his body. We are facing extremely difficult to remove them. I urge the government not to use pellet guns at least,” he said.

One among those who was surrounding the injured elder farmer said the security forces are using different kinds of weapons and explosives. 

“Something explodes and makes a big bang, while shrapnels, splinters and pellets are coming out from some. They are also firing plastic and rubber bullets. Our people are suffering serious injuries, with some of them permanently losing their vision,” he said.

The other in his mid forties intervened and said with visible anger on his face, “Let them do whatever they want and in whatever way they want to harm us, we will not back down,” he said.

Another protester in his late fifties said, “Earlier, we had one border with Pakistan. And now, the government has created a new border (Haryana’s Shambhu border with Punjab) — which we are not allowed to cross.”

Dr Hina of Khalsa Aid, an international NGO which provides humanitarian aid in disaster areas and civil conflict zones across the world, said we have so far come across many protesters with several penetrating injuries on their bodies.

“We could remove a few of the charras (pellets) but failed to pull out all as they had penetrated two-three days back and flesh had developed around the wounds. We referred such patients to hospitals. Apart from pellets, we are receiving patients with injuries on their head, bodies and even private parts. There were cases of fractures as well,” she told The Mooknayak.

With both his arms torn off near elbows, Vikramjit Singh said the security forces are hurling petrol bombs on the protesting farmers. 

I got these at Shambhu border after a petrol bomb hit me and went off. All these injuries have been caused by a single explosive,” alleged the man in his mid thirties, sitting on a bed at Rajpura’s AP Jain Civil Hospital in blood-soaked clothes.

The wound on his left arm is deep as the alleged explosive has blown off his muscles little above the elbow. He said he was standing at least 500 metres away from the barricading when he was hit. 

“We have not come here to fight. We are holding a peaceful demonstration and raising our just demands. We are not breaching the barricades as the government is holding talks. Still, we are being attacked with any provocations,” he said, adding that if nothing works out, the farmer leaders will decide the future course of action.

Among the injured, undergoing treatment at the hospital, was young Ranjit Singh, a farmer from Gurdaspur in Punjab. He has multiple small puncture injuries with the absence of a central wound on his neck, hands, chest and belly allegedly caused by pellet guns.

“The injuries you are seeing have been caused by pellet guns on February 13. The government is torturing us in every possible way. Its police are hurling smoke bombs and firing live bullets, in addition to rubber and plastic bullets. They are using different kind of arms, ammunition and explosives against us,” he said, adding that he came to the hospital after the doctor treating patients at the spot advised him a hospitalisation to avoid infection.

Jaspal Singh, a farmer in his mid seventies, got hurt at around 4 pm on February 14 after a tear gas shell hit his right leg. 

“If the government wants to kill us, we are ready to shed our blood,” he said.

Dr Bidhi Chand, senior medical officer at the hospital, said he has received 58 injured farmers from February 13 till February 16. “Of them, 39 patients with minor injuries were discharged after first aid. Four persons who were severely injured were referred to Rajindra Hospital in Patiala, while 10 took LAMA (leave against medical advice),” he said.

Asked about the kind of injuries he has seen in the patients, he said majority of them had lacerated wounds caused by sharp objects like shards of glass or splinters. “A few of them had injuries in their eyes caused by tear gas. We referred one such critical patient for intensive care,” he said.

At least three farmers lost vision due to pellet injuries, and it has been confirmed by Punjab Health Minister Dr Balbir Singh.

One among them is 22-year-old Davinder Singh Bhangu Shekhupuria, a farmer from Ghanaur in Patiala, who underwent a surgery for the removal of a pellet in his eye at the Government Medical College and Hospital in Chandigarh’s Sector 32.

The doctors who performed a surgery on him confirmed he may have lost his vision in his left eye forever.

The other two have been admitted to Rajindra Hospital, Patiala. “Their medical examination revealed their eyesight cannot be restored,” said the minister, who himself was a practising eye surgeon until recently.

At least a dozen farmers have suffered pellet injuries, he claimed, accusing the Haryana Police of not only using water cannons and tear gas shells, but also pellet and bullet guns.

Haryana’s ADGP (Law and Order) Mamta Singh denied the allegation. She said in addition to tear gas, the police only used rubber bullets, which are non-lethal, and that too on one and two occasions when it was unavoidable. 

“We used rubber bullets when our forces were surrounded by mobs of 2,000-3,000 people. We used it when they got close and attacked our forces,” she said.

Countering her claims, the protesters flaunted empty shells — alleging them to have been fired by the security forces.

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