Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar addresses a press conference, in Chandigarh, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar addresses a press conference, in Chandigarh, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021
PTI Photo

KARNAL: At the end of their tether, the tipping point came as protesting farmers on Sunday took matters in their own hands, ransacking the venue of the ‘kisan mahapanchayat' programme in Haryana's Karnal district where Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar was to address a gathering and enumerate the benefits of the three contentious agriculture laws.

Since Karnal is CM Khattar’s constituency, the Haryana Police was not inclined to brook any nonsense and used water cannons and lobbed teargas shells to disperse the miscreants. However, the police action seemed to precipitate matters with the protesters climbing onto the dais, throwing chairs flower pots and tearing up banners and posters. Result: Khattar's meeting had to be cancelled as his chopper was unable to land at the venue.

The Haryana farmers, at their wits' end, with one ‘baithak’ (meeting) after another not yielding any tangible outcome, were in no mood to listen to the chief minister. By noon, hundreds of them had converged at a toll plaza, where they were stopped by the police. But, fending off water cannons, tear gas and batons, they managed to get past the barricades and reach the venue of the event, where they allegedly vandalised the arrangements.

"Around 5,000 people were waiting for me to come and speak but it didn't happen. In view of the protests, I asked the chopper to return as I did not wish to aggravate the law and order situation," the Chief Minister told the media later. He, however, blamed the Opposition for the incident rather than farmers who he said ‘‘never behave in this manner". He also tried to sound conciliatory by saying that they had never stopped anyone from protesting.

Congress's Randeep Surjewala had tweeted in the morning: "Respected Manohar Lal ji, please stop this pretence of holding a Kisan Mahapanchayat. By playing with the sentiments of those who provide us with food, please stop meddling with the law and order situation".

If you want to have a conversation, have it with those who have been protesting for the last 46 days," read another tweet from Surjewala.

Khattar, in a face-saving exercise, addressed a press conference hours after he was forced to abort his programme and blamed some youngsters who had taken control of the helipad. He also accused the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni for instigating the violence. Giving an indication of the thinking at the Centre, Manohar Lal, who is an old associate of PM Modi, said he feels the Centre "will not repeal" the three new farm laws.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal