Farmers’ Protest: Heavy Shelling at Shambhu, Kanauri,1 killed; All That is Happening at Punjab-Haryana Border

Equipped with crains, JCB excavators and tractor trolleys, protesting farmers today resumed their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march amid clashes with security forces.
Situation at Punjab-Haryana Shambhu and Khanauri borders remains extremely tense, with security forces resorting to tear gas shelling.
Situation at Punjab-Haryana Shambhu and Khanauri borders remains extremely tense, with security forces resorting to tear gas shelling.

New Delhi/Chandigarh: Situation at Punjab-Haryana Shambhu and Khanauri borders is extremely tense, with security forces resorting to tear gas shelling, as farmers — camping there for days — resumed their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march after they rejected the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government’s proposal that its agencies would procure cotton, maze and pulses at minimum support price (MSP) for next five years.

Many farmers sustained injuries during the clashes.

A 24-year-old farmer died of the heavy tear gassing by security forces at Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border. The young man lost his life in the ongoing clashes that ensued after peasants - demanding a legal guarantee of MSP, among others - resumed their 'Delhi Chalo' march on February 21.

The farmer identified as Shubh Karan Singh breathed his last at the government-run Rajindra Hospital in Patiala where he was rushed after receiving previous injuries.

The death has been confirmed by a senior doctor, who wished to remain anonymous. "The man was brought to the hospital from Shambhu border in critical condition. We tried our best to save his life, but failed," he told The Mooknayak.

A leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Sidhupur) or BKU (Sidhupur) also confirmed the death.

However, the Haryana Police denied to acknowledge the casualty, saying, "No farmer has died today, according to the information received so far. This is just a rumour."

The police, however, confirmed injuries to two policemen and a protester at Data Singh-Khanauri border.

The incident highlights the escalating tensions between the protesting farmers and security forces.

An estimated 14,000 peasants with their 1,200 tractor-trolleys, 10 mini-buses and 300 cars along with hundreds of two-wheelers are attempting multi-layer barricading put up by the securing forces — which are said to have “clear instructions” from the Centre not to allow the protesters “at any cost” to move ahead and reach the national capital.

Amid clashes with the Haryana Police and Central reserve forces, the protesters are equipped with cranes, JCB excavators and modified tractors to remove the iron barricades, cement barriers, concrete walls that have been erected on the road, barbed wires and iron nails and make their way.

“The situation at the border is very tense,” said Punjab Health Minister Dr Balbir Singh, appealing to the protesting farmers to maintain peace.

He also urged Haryana as well as Central governments to allow the agitators passage to Delhi as peaceful protest is their constitutional right. 

As the protesters are getting injured in the ongoing clashes, the minister said his chief minister (Bhagwant Singh Mann) has given him the responsibility to make necessary arrangements in hospitals in the border districts.

“Ambulances have been placed. We have made all the arrangements,” he said, appealing to the government to only use “plastic pellets” to disperse the protesters. 

“The day the protest started, a lot of people came to me with bullet injuries and also that they lost their eyesight. I urge everyone to observe restraint and present their demands in a peaceful manner,” he added.

DGP Lied on Using Pellet Guns?

The Haryana Police has faced criticism and condemnations for allegedly using lethal pellet guns to chase away the protesters. 

However, the allegations were outrightly denied by Haryana Police Director General of Police Shatrujeet Kapur who had claimed the response of the security forces was limited to rubber bullets.

He had further said that even the rubber bullets were being fired from a “distance of 50-60 yards without directly aiming” at the protesters. “The rubber bullets are pointed to the ground — which ricochet and then hit the target. We do not want to injure the people,” he claimed.

Contrary to the top cop’s claims, the agitating farmers accused the men in uniform of using pellet guns, smoke and petrol bombs apart from teargas shells, rubber bullets and water cannons.

Injuries on farmers’ bodies and media investigations debunked the DGP’s claim. A report published in digital publication The Quint, based on an exclusive possession of the medical report of one of an injured protesting farmer who was admitted to the Government Medical College and Rajendra Hospital in Patiala, said he has pellet injuries.

A protesting farmer has sustained injuries at Khanauri after being hit by a rubber bullet. He was shifted to a nearby hospital on the Punjab side.
A protesting farmer has sustained injuries at Khanauri after being hit by a rubber bullet. He was shifted to a nearby hospital on the Punjab side.

Let’s Talk Again: Govt to Farmers

Meanwhile, the Centre has invited the farmers for the 5th round of talks. Union Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda on February 21 invited them for a fifth round of discussion on all issues, including the MSP.

The minister also appealed to the protesting farmers to maintain peace and engage in a dialogue to find a solution.

“We are ready to discuss all the issues, be it MSP or crop diversification. We can find a solution only through dialogue,” he told reporters amid the deadlock.

The incumbent BJP too has proposed to have a dialogue with the agitating farmers and appealed to them to arrive at a solution “peacefully”.

“The Narendra Modi government has done so much work for farmers. Arjun Munda has also invited the farmers for a discussion. Any solution (to their issues) will be found only through dialogue and discussions. The government is open to discussions with the farmers,” said BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad while addressing a press conference at the party headquarters in New Delhi.

When asked about the Centre’s invitation for a further round of negotiations, farmers’ leader Sarwan Singh Pandher told The Mooknayak, “Let us think it over. We will speak after consultation with our unions.”

Indicating that they are open to discussions, he said the protests will be called off and the march will end if the Centre says in clear terms that it will bring a law to ensure MSP on all 23 crops under the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices as per the Swaminathan Commission recommendations.

Pandher said, “We have told the government that you can kill us, but please don’t oppress the farmers. We request the prime minister to come forward and put an end to this protest by announcing a law on the MSP guarantee for the farmers...The country will not forgive such a govt...There are paramilitary forces deployed in the villages of Haryana...What crime have we committed? We have made you the prime minister. We never thought that the forces would oppress us this way...Please protect the Constitution and let us peacefully head towards Delhi. This is our right…”

Meanwhile, farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal said, “We want to go to Delhi in a peaceful manner. The government should remove the barricades and give us the permission to march towards Delhi and make arrangements for our sitting there.”

He said his intention is not to create any chaos. 

“We have made a programme to reach Delhi since November 7. If the government says that they did not get enough time this means the government is trying to neglect us. This is not right that such huge barricades are placed to stop us. We want to go to Delhi peacefully. The government should remove the barricades and let us come in... Otherwise, they should fulfill our demands. We are peaceful. If they extend one hand, we will also cooperate. We have to handle the situation with patience. I appeal to the youngsters to not lose control,” he said.

Blame Game

After the Centre accused Punjab of allowing the protesters to assemble at the borders, resulting in a law and order situation, the state government has denied the allegation.

In a letter to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, it said that the farmers were proceeding to Delhi to protest but they are stuck at the Punjab-Haryana border due to restrictions on movement.

Cong. Extends Support

Congress National President Mallikarjun Kharge said his party stands firmly with the farmers. 

“We are supporting them (the protesting farmers). Their demands should be fulfilled. We will include the issue in our election manifesto, assuring that the Congress will come up with a law to ensure MSP. All crops cannot be covered, but essential crops can be brought under its ambit,” he said.

The Haryana Police has asked JCB excavator owners to remove their machines from the protest site, failing which they may face legal consequences.

"These excavators are deemed to pose a potential threat to the security personnel stationed at the border points," the state police said in a statement.

Feeling the heat of the protest, security has been tightened in Delhi.

Police personnel have been instructed to maintain a "high-level of vigilance" at Uttar Pradesh-Delhi Ghazipur border and Haryna-Delhi Singhu and Tikri borders.

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