The protesting farmers in Karnal on Tuesday gheraoed the district headquarters demanding action against the police lathicharge on farmers on August 28.
The gherao began in the evening, several hours after farmers from Haryana and neighbouring states reached Karnal’s New Anaj Mandi for a mahapanchayat, riding tractors and motorcycles.
Marching on foot from the mahapanchayat venue to the mini-secretariat five kilometres away, farmers faced a water cannon as they neared the complex. They jumped some barricades, but there was no other serious confrontation with police along the way.
Farmer unions had warned that they will gherao the mini-secretariat if the administration did not meet their demands, centring around a now-transferred IAS officer who was caught on tape allegedly telling policemen to "break heads" if the protesters crossed the line.
As the mahapanchayat began on Tuesday morning, the local administration invited 11 farm leaders for talks.
Three hours later, they leaders announced that the administration had not agreed to their demands – and thousands of farmers headed on foot towards the secretariat.
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Farm leaders told them not get into any confrontation with the police. They were asked to squat on the road wherever they were stopped.
“The gherao of the mini-secretariat has started. We will sit here peacefully. Despite all obstacles, we have gheraoed the mini-secretariat,” Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) leader Yogendra Yadav announced later.
“We don't have to enter inside the mini-secretariat and only gherao it from outside,” he told reporters. As the protesters appeared to settle in for the night, union leaders said the gherao will continue till their demands are met.
During their talks with the administration on Tuesday, Yadav said, the farm leaders insisted only on the suspension of the IAS officer and no other demand was raised.
Yadav said the administration rejected the demand for any immediate action against him. Officials, however, told the farm leaders that an inquiry will take place.
Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said the M L Khattar government is not listening to the farmers. “The Khattar government should agree to our demands or else arrest us. We are ready to fill Haryana jails,” he tweeted.
Earlier, Yadav claimed in a tweet that the morcha leaders, including Rakesh Tikait were briefly detained by Karnal police as they marched towards the secretariat. Under “huge pressure” from the farmers, they were brought out from the police bus, he said.
About 10 protesters were hurt in the clash with police in Karnal on August 28, as they tried to march towards the venue of a BJP meeting. Their leaders also claimed that a farmer died later, an allegation rejected by the administration.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Darshan Pal and Yogendra Yadav were among the senior Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) leaders who reached Karnal for the rally, held two days after a huge mahapanchayat in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar.
Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have been protesting for months over the three farm laws enacted at the Centre, claiming that the legislation will lead to the erosion of the minimum support price (MSP) system.
Deputy Commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav, Karnal's Inspector General of Police Mamta Singh and Superintendent of Police Ganga Ram Punia, were among the officials who took part in the “failed” talks with farm leaders.
Addressing the mahapanchayat earlier, Yogendra Yadav said, “We have come to ask the government which Constitution, which law gives an IAS officer permission to give orders to break the farmers' heads.”
“Under which law are police allowed to carry out brutal lathi-charge resulting in the death of one and injuries to several others,” he added.
Farm leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said a meeting with the district administration officials was held on Monday as well.
After failing to get any satisfactory response on their demands the farmers decided to hold a mahapanchayat on Tuesday, he added.
Security arrangements had been beefed up in Karnal a day ahead of mahapanchayat and central forces deployed.
Mobile internet services were suspended in Karnal and the four adjoining districts of Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind and Panipat until Tuesday midnight. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC banning gathering of people were imposed in Karnal district
Traffic on the Delhi-Karnal-Ambala National highway was not disrupted while the panchayat continued, officials said.