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OPINION | FARMERS UNREST: NEGOTIATION IS THE ONLY WAY OUT

Farmers alleged that police fired bullets at them injuring several of them and Shubhkaran died of bullet wounds.

Rajat Sharma Written By: Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive New Delhi Published on: February 22, 2024 17:21 IST
India TV Editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma
Image Source : INDIA TV India TV Editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma

The death on Wednesday of a young farmer Shubhkaran Singh, hailing from Punjab’s Bathinda district, during clashes between police and farmers at Khanauri on the Haryana-Punjab border has fuelled tension.  Protesters stoned police pickets and threw burning parali (crop stubble) at policemen, by mixing chilli powder. The protesters also attacked policemen with sickles, injuring 12 policemen. Farmers alleged that police fired bullets at them injuring several of them and Shubhkaran died of bullet wounds. Police rejected this charge as baseless. Farmers have demanded compensation and a government job for Shubhkaran’s sister, who is presently a student. After the clashes, farmer leaders on Wednesday night announced that their Delhi Chalo agitation will be halted for two days. Farmer leaders have demanded that Shubhkaran be declared a ‘martyr’ and a medical board should conduct post-mortem to find out the exact cause of his death.  Already, there is growing tension on Punjab-Haryana and Haryana-Delhi border points, with the farmers bent on entering Delhi. 

Heavy-duty Poclain machines and JCBs have been deployed by farmers and policemen on both sides of the border. Common people, including students and traders, are facing the brunt of the stand-off. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi posted a video of clashes at Khanauri depicting an explosion of tear gas shells, sound of firing and people running for cover, with the entire area covered in smoke. The video is yet to be verified. Data Singh Khanauri border divides Jind (Haryana) and Sangrur (Punjab) districts. The atmosphere was peaceful on Wednesday, but in the afternoon, clashes began. Police alleged that protesters threw stones injuring several of them, but farmers alleged that central police force men entered Punjab border and fired at them. In Uttar Pradesh, Bharatiya Kisan Union farmers led by Rakesh Tikait staged protest in Shamli, Meerut, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad by taking out tractor march. 

All said, one must understand that the Centre wants to find a solution to the impasse through talks, but farmer leaders are not serious. Police does not want to use force on farmers, but the protesters are making things difficult by forcinhg the police to take strong measures.  The manner in which Poclain and JCB machines were brought from Punjab clearly shows that the protesters had planned to overpower police and forcibly break the barriers. They wanted to provoke the police, force it to take action, so that their leaders can garner sympathy from the people. The protesters have ensured that they would not allow the situation to normalize on Haryana border and their leaders have clearly told the Centre that the situation is not normal for holding talks. Farmer leaders know that the government is caught in a bind. It can neither use force, nor criticize farmers openly, because parliamentary elections are due. Those sitting in the government do not want to take risks, and those guiding the farmer leaders are politicians belonging to anti-Modi front. Several of these politicians are Left-leaning. Some YouTubers are trying to take advantage of the situation and they are pillorying Modi government. They do not want the opportunity to go out of hand. Whenever the Centre and farmer leaders form a bridge during talks, those sitting at the back try to break that bridge. 

When the government appealed to farmer leaders to rejoin talks, these elements cried hoarse saying that the government has bowed before the farmers. They wanted more pressure to be brought on the government. When no offer for talks came from the government, the very same elements used to say that the Centre is not ready for talks, and farmers must march to Delhi now. There is little possibility of any solution emerging from this impasse. But, one thing is clear. This time, the farmer leaders are not getting the same measure of sympathy that they got two years ago from the common man. People of course do want that the farmers must be allowed to have their say, they have the right to protest, but bringing heavy-duty Poclain and JCB machines to break barriers set by the police, using tractors to block roads, cannot be supported by the common man. Already students are facing difficulties because they have to appear in exams, and business of traders has come to a standstill. Those working in Delhi NCR offices have to face huge traffic jams on highways. All such incidents do have some effect on the minds of people. The issues confronting the farmers can be ironed out only on the negotiation table. Both sides must work towards that end. No problem can be solved through confrontation.

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