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Farmer killed as police deploy tear gas, fire rubber bullets to disperse protesters at Punjab-Haryana border

Farmers look for cover after police fired tear gas at them during their 'Delhi Chalo' march, near the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu border, in Patiala district, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024 (Photo: PTI)

CHANDIGARH, FEBRUARY 21: A farmer was killed and a few others injured on the Punjab-Haryana border as protesters resumed their ‘Delhi Chalo agitation, with Haryana Police firing tear gas shells to thwart attempts to breach barricades at Shambhu and Khanauri.
The farmers claimed that Haryana police personnel fired rubber bullets besides tear gas shells. Farmer leaders said this was the first death in clashes since the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march began on February 13.
The leaders had rejected a proposal made by the Government in the 4th round of talks between the two sides to break the deadlock and announced that thousands of Punjab farmers camping at these two border points would resume their agitation on Wednesday morning.
Earlier in the day, Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, who is among the 3 Union Ministers engaging with the farmer leaders, called for further talks and appealed to the protesters to maintain peace.
Farmer leader Baldev Singh Sirsa identified the victim as Subhkaran Singh (21), who died at Khanauri on the Sangrur-Jind border. Singh was a resident of Baloke village in Punjab’s Bathinda district, he said.
Patiala-based Rajindra Hospital’s Medical Superintendent, HS Rekhi, told reporters that 3 people, one of them dead, were brought to the hospital from the Khanauri border point. The deceased had an injury to his head and the other two are stable, Rekhi said.
Thousands of farmers resumed their agitation 2 days after the 4th round of talks with the Government over their demands, including a legal guarantee for the minimum support price (MSP) for crops and a farm debt waiver, failed.
‘Rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets’
Farmers in Khanauri, one of the two protest sites on the Punjab-Haryana border, claimed that Haryana police personnel fired rubber bullets, besides tear gas shells to disperse protesters.
Similarly, police fired tear gas shells to disperse some farmers who started moving towards the multiple layers of barricades at the Shambhu border point near Ambala in Haryana.
By mid-afternoon, there had been at least 3 rounds of tear gas shelling. A drone was also deployed by security personnel at Shambhu to drop tear gas shells.
Following the tear gas shelling, a chaotic situation was witnessed at the protest sites, with the farmers running for cover as the smoke enveloped the area. Many protesting farmers were seen wearing masks and glasses to protect themselves from the gas.
Drones are also being used by police to keep an eye on the activities of the farmers on the other side of the barricades.
The farmer leaders have asked the protesters to maintain calm and peace. Volunteers deputed by the farmer leaders at the protest sites have been asking young farmers not to move ahead.
Addressing protesters at Shambhu, farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal asked them to maintain peace and calm if they wanted to win.
“Do you want to win or not?” Dallewal asked the farmers.
He also mentioned the “victory” of farmers during the 2020-21 agitation against the now-repealed farm laws and cautioned the farmers to be wary of elements who could damage the agitation.
‘Don’t provide equipment’
Earlier in the day, while speaking to reporters, he said farmers will march peacefully towards Delhi. “Our intention is not to disturb peace”, Dallewal asserted.
While accusing the Centre of indulging in “delaying tactics” over the farmers’ demands, Dallewal said it should take a decision in their favour.
He also condemned the Government for installing multiple layers of barricades at the Punjab-Haryana border points to prevent the farmers from heading towards Delhi.
In a post on X, the Haryana Police asked owners of excavators to withdraw their machines from the protest sites. If they do not do so, action will be taken, it said.
“For owners and operators of poclains, JCBs: Please do not provide your equipment to the protestors and withdraw them from the protest site if already done, as they may be used to cause harm to security forces. It is a non-bailable offence and you may be held criminally liable”, police said in a post on X.
The Haryana Police on Tuesday had urged its Punjab counterpart to seize bulldozers and other earthmoving equipment from the inter-State border points, saying protesters might use these to break barricades.
These could pose a threat to security forces, Haryana Director General of Police Shatrujeet Kapoor had said in an urgent communication to his Punjab counterpart, Gaurav Yadav.
Their ‘Delhi Chalo’ march began on February 13 and since then, farmers have gathered at the border points along with their tractor-trolleys, minivans, and pickup trucks.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political) and the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha are spearheading the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march to press the Government to accept the farmers’ demands.
Heavy earthmoving equipment, including excavators and modified tractors, were seen at the protest sites, with police cautioning that these might be used to break barricades and cause harm to security personnel.
The protesting farmers have rejected the BJP-led Centre’s proposal for procuring pulses, maize and cotton at MSP by Government agencies for 5 years. This was proposed in the 4th round of talks.
Talks between the farmer leaders and 3 Union Ministers, Piyush Goyal, Munda and Nityananad Rai, have been held on February 8, 12, 15 and 18.
The farmers are also demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, pension for farmers and farm labourers, no hike in the electricity tariff, withdrawal of police cases, “justice” for the victims of the 2021 Lakhimpur Kheri violence, reinstatement of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 and compensation to the families of the farmers who died during a previous agitation in 2020-21. (PTI)