At least 10 people were injured on Saturday as police allegedly lathi-charged a group of farmers disrupting traffic movement on a highway while heading towards Karnal to protest against a BJP meeting. The police, however, said only mild force was used as the protesters were blocking the highway, affecting traffic movement.
Citing section 144 of the CrPC imposed in the area banning assembly of five or more people, the police made several announcements over loud speakers, declaring the gathering by the protesters "unlawful".
According to news agency PTI, the police initially asked the farmers to disperse, but resorted to force as the protesters refused to budge. The police said the protesters were bent on moving towards the venue of the BJP meeting in Karnal.
Meanwhile, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, and many others condemned the 'brutal' incident.
Taking to Twitter, Pawar said the lathi charge was "absolutely unwarranted". "Despite the peaceful protest by farmers, the police launched a lathi charge on them resulting into many farmers getting injured. I strongly condemn this incident," he wrote.
"Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh has slammed his Haryana counterpart for unleashing brazen brutality of the police on the peacefully protesting farmers, many of whom were injured in the lathi-charge," read a statement from the CMO.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi also hit out at the police action against farmers. Taking to Twitter, he posted a picture of a man who was badly injured as a result of the lathi charge. Gandhi wrote in Hindi: "Again the blood of farmers is shed... and India bows its head in shame."
Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav said the lathi charge exposed the true face of the Haryana Police. "They (farmers) were protesting against the visit of CM Khattar and other BJP leaders to Karnal. This is the true face of Haryana police," Yadav tweeted.
Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also condemned the attack and dubbed the BJP-JJP regime as the "General Dyer government".
"CM-Dy CM's conspiracy to attack farmers in Karnal is clear from the orders of the Duty Magistrate, who is ordering the police to break the heads of farmers and lash them with sticks. BJP-JJP is the 'General Dyer' government," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
"Khattar Sahib, Today in Karnal sticks have been blown on the soul of every Haryanvi. The oppression of the sinful BJP government that bleeds farmers is like demons. The coming generations will remember the blood from farmers' bodies flown on the streets," he said in another tweet.
"Guru Modi ji inaugurated the Jallianwala Bagh light and sound show in Punjab today and disciple Khattar ji got the General Dyer-like barbaric act live telecast by lathi-charging the farmers in Karnal," he added.
Meanwhile, the police said that the protesting farmers first threw stones at them. "At 12 noon, some protesting farmers blocked the national highway & tried to march towards Karnal city. When stopped, some protesters threw stones at policemen. Police used force to disperse them. 4 farmers & 10 policemen were injured," said Haryana ADGP (Law & Order) Navdeep Singh Virk.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that will take necessary action over the incident. "Obstructing official work is against democracy. If they wanted to protest, they should've done it peacefully. If they jam highways & throw stones at police, then police will also take steps to maintain law&order. We'll look into it &take necessary action," he said.
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