Karnal impasse: With no breakthrough on second day of talks, farmers prepare for long haul

Comes as protesting farmers set up tents outside the mini secretariat after spending the night there

Parveen Arora
Tribune News Service
Karnal, September 8

Talks between protesting farmers and the Karnal Administration failed to yield a breakthrough for the second time in the day, officials and farmer leaders said on Tuesday as the farmers brace themselves for a prolonged protest outside the mini secretariat in the district. 

The standoff spilled into the second day on Wednesday as farmers spent the night outside the mini secretariat after a day of failed talks on Tuesday. Led by a joint action front of 13 farmer unions, the protesters have been demanding criminal action against an IAS officer who was heard telling cops to break protesters' heads in a viral video that circulated after the August 28 lathicharge. Ayush Sinha, an Indian Administrative Service officer of the Haryana cadre, is heard telling cops in the video to “smash the heads” of protesters breaking down police barricades.

IAS officer Sanjeev Verma, who’s the commissioner of the Karnal Division, was part of Wednesday’s meeting, which lasted three hours. 

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Hookah time for farmers in Karnal.

Eatables being served to the protesting farmers.

Farmer leaders at the protest site. 

Protesters want Sinha to face either murder (Section 302, Indian Penal Code) or attempted murder charges (Section 307, Indian Penal Code), but the administration has so far refused to give in.

On Wednesday, the district administration again invited a delegation of Samyukt Kisan Morcha leaders for a meeting at 2 pm in another bid to end the standoff.

“The talks completely failed because the government is adopting an adamant attitude,” SKM leader Yogendra Yadav told reporters after the three-hour meeting.

Police and protesters stand outside the mini secretariat in Karnal on Wednesday. Tribune photo: Sayeed Ahmed

He said the government wasn't even willing to suspend the IAS officer, let alone book him.

The protest will remain peaceful, farmer union leaders said after the meeting.

Rakesh Tikait, a leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, said earlier in the day the protests will not stop. As the protest continued into the night, Karnal's Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police both tried in vain to persuade protesters to clear the road to avoid causing traffic problems the next day.  

The Rapid Action Force stands outside the mini secretariat in Karnal on Tuesday. Tribune photo: Sayeed Ahmed

“The government will not accept our demands. We will sit here till our demands are met. This is a struggle for the freedom of farmers from a government of corporates. Karnal will be another centre of protest like the Delhi borders if our demands are not met.”

Farmers have pitched tents and we're ready for a long haul, he said, adding that the district officials were defending the IAS officer responsible for the lathicharge on farmers.

Gurdwaras provided them with food on Wednesday evening and city residents pitched in. 

Inspector General of Police Mamta Singh and Superintendent of Police Ganga Ram Punia said they were monitoring security arrangements inside and outside the mini secretariat.

A large number of farmers stayed put outside the gates of the district headquarters here on Wednesday as they remained firm on their demand for action against Sinha.

Farmers listen to speakers in tents pitched outside the mini secretariat in Karnal on Wednesday. Tribune photo

Locked in a showdown with the Haryana government over the lathicharge, the farmers squatted at the gates of the mini-secretariat on Tuesday evening after talks with the local administration failed. Many spent the night outside the mini-secretariat.

On August 28, farmers poured into Karnal to protest a meeting that the Bharatiya Janata Party--- whose central government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been at the very centre of the farmer protests that began last year---held in the city. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattr, who also belongs to the same party, was to attend the meeting. 

Things took a turn for the worse when clashes broke out between the protesters and the police. Several farmers were wounded in the incident. Protesters claim one even died but government authorities have denied the allegation.   

Sinha was the sub-divisional magistrate at the time of the incident, and since has been transferred in a bureaucratic reshuffle, but that has failed to appease the protesters. 

The protest in Karnal is part of the larger farmers protest against three central laws—The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.

Passed last year, the laws have been a subject of great controversy. Farmers, who’ve been pitched at the borders of Delhi since November 2020 to demand that the government repeal the laws, fear that the legislation leaves them open to corporate exploitation—an allegation the central government under the Bharatiya Janata Party has so far denied. Eight rounds of talks between the Centre and the farmers could not break the impasse. — With PTI inputs

Tribune Shorts


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