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Fearing backlash, Khattar govt to exercise 'restraint' with protesting farmers

Saturday - September 19, 2020 5:28 pm , Category : INDIA
Chandigarh, Sep 19 (IANS) Fearing a backlash from its alliance partner Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana on Saturday advised authorities to exercise restraint while dealing with farmers protesting against the central farm Bills passed by the Lok Sabha.
In a communication to Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Vjai Vardhan said the protesters should be dealt with "tact and patience".
On the call of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), the farmers have been planning statewide road blockades to lodge their protests against the farm Bills.
JJP leader Digvijay Chautala, the younger brother of Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala and the first leader from the BJP-JJP alliance to condemn the police action, has apologised to the farmers for facing batons in a clash with the police over a rally against the farm ordinances that preceded the Bills.
"The Jannayak Janata Party was always with the farmers and the interests of the farmers are always supreme for them. After watching the video of 'lathicharge' on farmers, the first thing we did was to condemn the incident as it was wrong," he said on September 17.
He added the lathicharge on farmers on September 10 was equivalent to lathicharge on the family of the late Chaudhary Devi Lal.
In a post-electoral alliance, the JJP with 10 seats in the 90-member Haryana Assembly has extended support to the BJP, which won 40 seats, six short of the majority mark.
The Additional Chief Secretary's letter to the officials concerned asked them to ensure the protesters are not allowed to take the law into their hands and prompt action be taken against those found indulging in loot, arson or damage to life, property or vehicles.
"All DCs, SSPs may reach out to the organisers and ensure a peaceful protest. Organisers should be advised and prevailed upon to register their protest in a peaceful and lawful manner and desist from blocking highways and roads," said the letter.
The district officers have been told to divert traffic immediately in case any road or highway is blocked so that people don't face inconvenience.
A day after the protest by the farmers at Pipli in Kurukshetra and their leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni was booked in several cases, state Home Minister Anil Vij said no lathicharge took place anywhere on the protesting farmers.
"There is no MLR (medico-legal report) and nobody received injuries. No orders were passed to use force on farmers," he had said.
The farmers have been protesting against the farm Bills that were passed by the Lok Sabha and became a bone of contention between the government and the opposition.
Apart from the Congress, long-time NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal too objected to the Bills, calling these "anti-farmer", with SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigning from the Union Cabinet.
However, the government pushed them aggressively, calling them pro-farmer and labelling those opposing them as batting for the middlemen.
Now, the three farm Bills are set to face opposition in the Rajya Sabha and the government wants full attendance on the treasury benches.
The three Bills are the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Farmers Produce and Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.
BJP National President J.P. Nadda said the Bills give farmers the freedom to choose whether they wish to sell farm produce in the 'mandi' or any other corner of the country.

--IANS vg/kr