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Karnal: Thousands of farmers holding sit-in protest spell trouble for Khattar government and BJP

For the last few days thousands of farmers have gathered in the northern Indian state of Haryana to protest agriculture laws. They are camping outside the mini-secretariat in Karnal — the constituency represented by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in the Haryana Vidhan Sabha.

After talks between farmer leaders and officials failed, the protestors marched towards the office in Karnal district. Several farmer leaders were detained and released later. Farmers had been blocking a highway when police began a baton-charge to disperse them. At least 10 people were reportedly injured in the violence and one of them died from a heart attack a day later, according to farm groups.The farmers demonstrating in Karnal are demanding action against the officials who ordered that lathi-charge .

Anger intensified after a viral video of a top government official

The farmers have been demanding the suspension of an IAS officer Ayush Sinha was caught on tape allegedly telling policemen to 'break heads' of farmers if they crossed the lines during the protests. They are firm on their ultimatum for action against IAS officer Ayush Sinha. Farmer leaders say when the entire country has seen a video clip in which the officer seems ordering policemen to “break the heads” of protesters, then there should not be any delay in taking action against him. They are also demanding his dismissal from service. In view of the farmers' agitation in Karnal, the Haryana government had suspended the Internet services in the district apparently "to stop the spread of misinformation". However, the Mobile internet and SMS services were restored across Karnal today even though the farmers continued to gherao the mini-secretariat.

Amid the ongoing standoff between farmers and the state government, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij Thursday said that the government will “impartially” probe the entire Karnal lathicharge episode but added that “only genuine demands (of farmers) will be met”.

“Dialogue is an integral part of democracy. Only genuine demands will be met. Nobody can be hanged merely because someone is demanding it. There can’t be a different IPC of the country and that of the farmers. Farmers are holding a protest in Karnal, and this is their democratic right. Our officers are holding talks with them,” Vij stated.

How Farmers’ protest against Haryana CM M L Khattar would impact BJP politics

Karnal, being the CM’s constituency, holds spirited prominence in state politics. This is not the first time when police have assaulted farmers in Karnal. Earlier, in January this year, farmers did not let Khattar’s helicopter land in Kaimla village. Sensing trouble, Khattar had to cancel his scheduled visit to the village and instead landed at another spot. State BJP president Om Prakash Dhankar, Education Minister Kanwar Pal and Sports Minister Sandeep Singh besides several BJP MLAs had to be escorted out of the venue under heavy police cover. Farmers damaged the helipad and wrecked the site with subsequent clashes with the police. In May again, farmers were assaulted by the police when they tried to disrupt Khattar’s event in Hisar where he was inaugurating Covid-19 facility in OP Jindal School. In December 2020, Khattar’s convoy was attacked by a group of farmers in Ambala. The August 28 Bastara toll plaza incident is the fourth such incident where farmers were assaulted when they tried to disrupt Khattar’s events. The anger among the farmers is seething against the chief minister and the 3 black farmer laws.

The farmer’s protest is a huge embarrassment for the state government and BJP, more so when the CM’s own constituency is taken to ransom. It clearly indicates that the government is losing hold. Government, which needs to be in command for all the situations, appears stranded and on back foot . We don’t see anything like the offer of peach talks or constructive happening. It is the duty of the chosen MPs and elected members of the government to pay heed to the demand of the protesters but it seems that the Khattar government has decided to be adamant and ruthless on the issue of the farmers. It is an extremely unfortunate position, both for the CM and for the state government.

Only time will tell how the impact of the Karnal protests will tumble to poll bound states Uttar Pradesh and Punjab which have common interest in farming. While in UP, the Yogi Adityanath government is seeking a second term, the party is on a weak footing in Punjab after its long-time ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) dissolved ties over farm laws.

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