Haryana: 3 Farmer Leaders, Many Protesters Detained As Peasants Protest Over Sunflower Seed MSP

It has been reported that police deployed water canons and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the protesters, many of whom were rounded up.

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As the protesting farmers blocked the Delhi-Chandigarh national highway in front of the Shaheed Udham Singh memorial, three farmer leaders were detained and several of their supporters rounded up.

The farmers were demanding that the government should procure sunflower seeds at the minimum support price (MSP).

It has been reported that police deployed water canons and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the protesters, many of whom were rounded up.

Commuters faced a harrowing time as they were caught in a traffic jam on the highway, where long queues of vehicles were seen.

The blockade also affected vehicular movement on Delhi-Chandigarh and Delhi-Ludhiana-Amritsar routes.

All about the protest

The farmers blocked the about 25 kilometres from, following a call given by Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni) chief Gurnam Singh Charuni, who was among the three farmer leaders detained by police.

Traffic from National Highway 44 was diverted to various other routes from 1 pm. The highway was cleared and traffic movement was restored after 7 pm.

Earlier in the day, a large contingent of police personnel, including those from other districts, was deployed and a number of barricades were erected to prevent the farmers from reaching the highway. However, the farmers dodged the police and used other routes to reach the highway.

Some of them reached the protest site in tractors laden with sunflower seeds.

The protesting farmers claimed the government was not buying sunflower seeds at the MSP. They said they had given the government time till Monday to accept their demand but it did not pay heed.

The protesters claimed they were forced to sell their produce to private buyers at around Rs 4,000 per quintal as against the MSP of Rs 6,400 per quintal.

They also said they are against the government move to include sunflower seeds under the Bhavantar Bharpai Yojana. Under this scheme, the government will pay a fixed compensation of Rs 1,000 per quintal for produce sold below the MSP, they said.

Charuni said BKU leaders held many meetings with government representatives in the recent past to press their demand for purchase of sunflower seeds at the MSP but nothing concrete came out of them.

He said they have launched an agitation and appealed to farmers all over the country to support them.

"Our protest will continue until the government accepts our demand," Charuni told reporters at the protest site.

Court order issued

Kurukshetra Superintendent of Police (SP) S S Bhoria told PTI that the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday directed that the highway be kept open for free flow and movement of traffic, without any hindrance.

However, at the same time the court order made it clear that the administration shall exercise utmost restraint and use force to disperse the "mob" gathered at the spot only as a last resort.

A copy of the court order was handed over to Charuni but the protesters did not budge, the SP said.

Later, a warning was issued to the protesters to vacate the highway, but they refused. The police used water cannons and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the protesters, he said.

Bhoria said Charuni and two other farmer leaders have been detained.

Deputy Commissioner Shantanu Sharma said the farmers had blocked NH-44 for several hours. The administration made repeated appeals to the farmers to lift the blockade and also cited the high court order but they did not relent.

Left with no other option, mild force was used by police to vacate the highway, he said.

After the farmers dispersed from the highway, over 400 of them sat on a dharna at the Shahabad-Ladwa road demanding the release of the detained farmer leaders. A number of farmers also blocked the Kaithal-Ambala road to protest the lathicharge.

The Congress targeted the Haryana government over the use of force against the farmers.

Senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda said, "The lathicharge on farmers is highly condemnable. Is asking for MSP a crime? Farmers are forced to sell a crop having an MSP of Rs 6,400 per quintal at Rs 4,000 to Rs 4,500."

The former chief minister also demanded that the detained farmer leaders be released immediately.

Senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said the "merciless lathicharge" on farmers has exposed the Khattar government's "hatred" towards them.

"This oppression will not be tolerated anymore," he said.

(With PTI Inputs0