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Farmers tear-gassed again as talks with ministers inconclusive

Last updated on: February 17, 2024 08:41 IST

Haryana Police on Friday fired tear gas shells to disperse protesting farmers when they moved towards the barricades at the Shambhu border near Ambala, a day after talks between Union ministers and farmer leaders remained inconclusive.

IMAGE: Paramilitary personnel stand guard at Punjab-Haryana Shambhu Border on Friday. Photograph: ANI Photo

The fresh confrontation comes on the fourth day of the farmers' 'Delhi Chalo' march, called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha, to press the government to accept their demands, including a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for crops.


Amid the impasse, the Union ministers and farmer leaders will meet on February 18 for the fourth round of talks.

The two sides met on February 8, 12 and 15 as well but those talks remained inconclusive.

Farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher on Friday accused the Centre of trying to 'suppress' the voices of the protesters, claiming social media accounts of farmers and YouTubers have been suspended.

The farmers from Punjab began their march to the national capital on Tuesday but were stopped by security personnel at Shambhu and Khanauri points on Punjab's border with Haryana.

The protesters have stayed put at the two border points since then.

On the fourth day of the protest, a 63-year-old farmer, who was among the protesters at the Shambhu border, died of a heart attack on Friday.

According to officials, Gian Singh, who hailed from Punjab's Gurdaspur district, complained of chest pain in the morning and was taken to the Civil Hospital in Punjab's Rajpura.

From there, he was rushed to Rajindra Hospital in Patiala, where doctors declared him brought dead.

Talking to reporters on Friday, Pandher said that during the meeting with Union ministers a day ago, 'we raised the issue of the suspension of Internet and Twitter (now X) handles of farmer leaders'.

Also alleging that the government has suspended the accounts of around 70 YouTubers who were showing farmers' protest, he said it appears 'the government wants to suppress our voice'.

Pandher said that during the talks, they raised the issue of the use of 'force' against farmers by the paramilitary personnel deployed at the Punjab-Haryana border who fired tear gas shells at the protesters.

He claimed that around 70 farmers have sustained serious injuries in an action by Haryana security personnel at Shambhu and Khanauri borders.

The farmer leader said the talks with the Union ministers were held in a positive atmosphere and various demands of the protesters, including a law on MSP and debt waiver, were discussed.

The government said they wanted to continue talks, Pandher said, adding that their 'Delhi Chalo' call still stands and the protesters were staying put at the Punjab-Haryana border so that a solution emerges through talks.

IMAGE: Farmers from various unions prepare langar during their Bharat Bandh call at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu Border. Photograph: ANI Photo

On Thursday, Pandher said during the meeting with ministers they raised the issue of tear gas shelling by the paramilitary forces on farmers at the Shambhu and Khanuri border points. He said they showed the shells to the ministers during the meeting.

Farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal demanded the release of farmers who were either arrested or detained by the Haryana police.

Union Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Minister Arjun Munda, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai represented the Centre at Thursday's meeting.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema also joined the meeting.

After the five-hour-long talks on Thursday night, Munda said, "We will find a solution by sitting together."

Mann said he raised with the Centre the issue of suspension of internet services in certain areas in Sangrur, Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib, and that of Haryana security personnel using a drone to drop tear gas shells on protesters inside Punjab's territory.

Meanwhile, farmers owing allegiance to different factions held demonstrations at several places in Punjab and Haryana in response to a call for a 'Bharat Bandh' by a farmers' body, causing inconvenience to commuters.

Though there was a partial response to the bandh in Haryana, markets and commercial establishments at several places in Punjab remained shut.

Protesters blocked national highways in Punjab's Pathankot, Tarn Taran, Bathinda and Jalandhar.

They also laid siege to several toll plazas in both the states.

In Haryana's Hisar, bus services of the state roadways remained paralysed as the Haryana Roadways staff also supported the call for 'Bharat Bandh'.

Punjab Roadways, Punbus and PRTC Contract Workers' Union also supported the bandh call while private operators did not ply buses.

Besides a legal guarantee of MSP, the farmers are demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, pension for farmers and farm labourers, farm debt waiver, no hike in electricity tariff, withdrawal of police cases and 'justice' for the victims of the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, and compensation to the families of the farmers who died during a previous agitation in 2020-21.

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