Farmers vs Haryana govt: The bitter harvest

Farmers vs Haryana govt: The bitter harvest

Farmers and villagers in Haryana are disappointed with the BJP-JJP government over issues such as the new farm laws, poor Covid management, rising unemployment and the overall treatment of Haryanvis.

On May 7, deputy chief minister of Haryana Dushyant Chautala had to cancel his programme scheduled at Jind after farmers, mostly women, started a march towards the city after a confrontation with the police. Ten days later, a violent clash erupted between farmers and police in Hisar. Farmers and police pelted stones at each other and cops used teargas and force. Around 50 farmers and nearly...

On May 7, deputy chief minister of Haryana Dushyant Chautala had to cancel his programme scheduled at Jind after farmers, mostly women, started a march towards the city after a confrontation with the police.

Ten days later, a violent clash erupted between farmers and police in Hisar. Farmers and police pelted stones at each other and cops used teargas and force. Around 50 farmers and nearly 20 cops were reportedly injured in the nearly two-hour clash.

The farmers were against Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar visiting the district to inaugurate a Covid hospital.

Following the incident, police booked nearly 200 farmers. In no time, all Haryana roads were blocked by farmers including the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal expressway, meant to bypass Delhi. Facing pressure, police had to release the farmers arrested in the incident.

Later, the police filed an FIR against 350 farmers but on May 24, thousands of farmers reached Hisar to protest this. The farmers gheraoed Hisar inspector general’s office, demanding dropping of criminal charges against the farmers and the arrest of chief minister Khattar for violating Covid-19 restrictions.

Hisar district authorities called 3,000 paramilitary troops but the situation went out of control. Later, they called the farmer leaders and dropped the cases against the farmers. It was reported that a massive build-up of protesters from Hisar and adjoining districts put authorities on the tenterhooks in the town and while the town turned into a virtual fortress with heavy deployment of police, the force has so far not restricted the farmers from entering the town.

People’s rebellion

Yudhvir Singh, a farmer leader, said, “It is our Haryana, it is our land. No Khattar or Dushyant can rule on us. The police are ours and the people are also ours. The farmers and citizens of Haryana are leaders now. This incompetent government will not decide for us now.”

“We made this government, we will only bring it down. We don’t want it anymore. They have cheated us. No one can stop us now, not even the police or army,” says Satyawan Lather, a farmer from Rohtak district of Haryana.

Farmers, villagers and the common man and woman in Haryana are disappointed with the BJP-JJP government over several issues, such as the new farm laws, treatment of farmers during protests, the poor Covid management, especially as the pandemic claimed thousands of lives in villages where hospital facilities are minimal.

As a result of this, they have started a rebellion against the government. As part of this, the village panchayats and khaps have banned all politicians and officials of the administration and police from entering several villages.

Mange Ram Malik, head of Malik Khap, says, “The farmers have been sitting on the borders for the last six months and the government has done nothing. They neither repealed the three farm laws nor guaranteed MSPs. Instead, now they are hitting farmers with sticks, tear gas shells, and stones.”

“We have banned the entry of all police officers, politicians, and any person related to them in our villages. If anyone enters the villages, they will have to face the villager’s actions. We warn them not to enter our villages,” Malik says.

The panchayat of Masoodpur village, located in Hansi tehsil of Hisar district, reportedly accused the state government of not providing adequate health facilities in the village despite repeated requests. The panchayat decided to ban the entry of government and police personnel and put up a board outside the village.

According to reports, a team of villagers would be deputed at the entrance of the village to check the police movement into the village.

Boycott lockdown

People in various cities, towns and villages of Haryana have even boycotted the Covid lockdown imposed by the government. They are largely annoyed by the fact that BJP-JJP leaders are moving about freely whereas they are not allowed to go anywhere.

Sunil Kumar, a private bus owner, says, “While the BJP-JJP leaders are moving freely, coming to inaugurate hospitals and address party workers, why are we not allowed to go out? Our businesses have shut, our savings are going down. We will go out now, no matter what.”

Farmers think that the lockdown is a ploy by the government to end their agitation. They have refused to acknowledge the lockdown and are holding mahapanchayats in their respective areas. Other sections of society have also joined the farmers in boycotting the lockdown.

Haryana farmers blocking roads in protest against the farm laws

“The lockdown is a way to harass the poor by issuing challans and grabbing money from them. Nobody is saying anything to the rich or politicians. This is a conspiracy by the government to end our protest. But our protest will continue,” says Gurcharan Singh, a farmer leader.

Not only farmers, even traders have stood by the farmers to boycott the lockdown and open their shops in various places in Haryana. Gaurav Gupta, a shopkeeper, says, “We are ready to go to jail but now it is impossible for us to shut our shops.”

“We have a family, we have children. We can’t see them dying of hunger. Don’t know if I will die from Covid or not, but I will die of hunger if I don’t open the shops now. We are not going by the orders of the government anymore. The traders have decided to open the shops,” Gupta says.

Boycott BJP-JJP leaders

Earlier this year, over 130 khap panchayats and nearly 6,000 panchayats in Haryana boycotted leaders of the ruling BJP-JJP coalition and this continues to be in force.

Farmers sitting in protest at Khatkar toll plaza in Jind for the last six months have gone further and decided against marrying their children to BJP-JJP leaders and supporters.

Kalo Devi, a farmer, said, “We have decided that we don’t marry our children to the supporters of BJP-JJP leaders. This step has been taken to show that we don’t need BJP-JJP in Haryana state anymore. They may be in power till 2024, but for us, their power has ended. It will be the citizen’s rule in Haryana from now.”

Jagbir Malik, the spokesperson for khaps in Haryana, said that all the khaps in Haryana unanimously decided to boycott the coalition of BJP and JJP.  “Whatever the two parties are doing with the farmers is not right and the demand of all the farmers must be fulfilled as soon as possible,” Malik says.

Haryana Kisaan Sabha President Phool Singh Sheokand accuses Dushyant Singh Chautala of double standards.

Farmers and villagers feel that Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala has cheated them

“Dushyant did not utter a word when asked to speak on behalf of farmers. Instead, he is speaking in favour of farm laws. It clearly shows that Dushyant loves the deputy CM’s post more than the farmers of Haryana,” said Sheokand.

“Dushyant came to power using the name of his great grandfather Devilal, who was a great farmer leader. He has sullied his great grandfather’s reputation. Dushyant does not have a spine and is a cheater,” Sheokand added.

Unemployment adds to woes

What adds to the people’s woes is the BJP-JJP government’s move to enact a law to recover damages from rioters at a time when most people in the state have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

According to the bill, the damage to public property during the farmer’s protest will be recovered from the farmers.

Haryana’s unemployment rate is the highest in the country. According to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the unemployment rate in the state soared to 35.5% in May.

Haryana’s joblessness rate is higher than Rajasthan (28%), Delhi (27.3%), and Goa (25.7%). Overall, the country’s unemployment rate has touched 11.3%, with joblessness prevalent more in urban areas than rural ones. Amid the pandemic, nearly 80% of youth in Haryana are jobless.

In a video, Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala lamented that the BJP-JJP government had failed to ensure livelihood opportunities for youth. He also noted that contractual employees working for the government are being sacked amid such a scenario.

“They can’t provide employment. They can’t keep their farmers happy. They just bring such draconian laws. Let them do anything, we will do whatever we want to. Let us see how they will recover the money from us. No farmer will give a single penny to the state government,” said Jai Bhagwan, a farmer based out of Jhajjar district.

Police and leaders helpless

Police and local leaders are a helpless lot in front of such huge numbers of farmers.

A senior police official says, “What can we do? The farmers have a lot of support. It is like the entire citizens of the state are against us.”

“Even if we touch a farmer, thousands of people get together against us. We are helpless. No force in the country can deal with such a huge crowd. And we can’t take strict action against our farmers,” he says.

Moreover, he adds that the protesting farmers are “our fathers, brothers, and sisters. 90 % of the police force in Haryana come from a farming background”.

What adds to the people’s woes is the BJP-JJP government’s move to enact a law to recover damages from rioters at a time when most people in the state have lost their jobs due to the pandemic

Ramkumar Gautam, JJP legislator from the Narnaund district, says it has become very difficult for them to go outside. “Wherever we go, protesters follow. Sometimes when they catch us, we can’t go without apologising to them. We can’t fight with the people of the entire state.”

A senior BJP leader describes the situation as really bad. “Farmers keep sitting outside our homes day and night. The central government should find a solution to this as soon as possible. This is an issue of law and order in the state.”

Haryana DGP Manoj Yadav says the situation is bad on all fronts.

“We are trying hard to maintain peace. On one side, there is Covid, on the other side, farmers’ protest. People are losing jobs as well. In such a situation, protests erupt easily,” he says, expressing the force’s efforts to maintain law and order.

What Modi and Khattar fail to understand

Rohtas Nagura, a political analyst, says, “Modi and Khattar horribly failed to understand the people of Haryana. First, they are staunch nationalists. Two, they have pride which is greater than anything. They will die but won’t give up their pride. Modi’s government has hurt their pride.”

Rajbir Deswal, a retired IPS officer of Haryana cadre and an advocate, has opined that, “Haryanvis behave the way they do isn’t because of no reason. They have lived directly under the shadow of foreign rule, with Delhi being the seat of power for a long time. They bore the brunt of all the persecution at the hands of the rulers.”

“Hence, being rebellious, there is much to be desired in their behaviour when it comes to niceties and exchange of greetings in inter-personal communication. These people aren’t hypocrites and are generally plain-hearted. They don’t calculate losses or gains and wouldn’t go beyond their father’s saying,” he writes.

“If you ask a Haryanvi for just one sugarcane stem, he might refuse you. But instead, he may give you a lump of gud (jaggery) free which is made out of several stems. Simpletons!” he describes Haryanvis.

“But if you go and challenge Haryanvi, he will accept your challenge and he will attack you 10 times more than you do. They are powerful and grounded people. Power and pride come gifted in their genes. Modi has not understood this fact,” added Nagura.

“There are various instances in the past when a government challenged Haryanvis but found nowhere in the next election, neither in the election campaign nor ballot results. Indian National Lokdal is a prime example of that. BJP-JJP made the same mistake. The farmers will not go without the repeal of laws,” explained Nagura.

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