- “Office bearers of the Punjab CM’s Office” leading protest: ML Khattar
- “Haryana farmers have stayed away from protests,” he said
- Mr Khattar said that Haryana Police had shown restraint during protests
The bitter back-and-forth between the Haryana and Punjab chief ministers continued Saturday afternoon, with Manohar Lal Khattar holding Amarinder Singh responsible for the thousands of angry farmers marching to Delhi to protest against the centre’s controversial new farm laws.
Mr Khattar, whose government and police have been criticised for brutish attempts to beat back what began as a peaceful protest, also claimed that no Haryana farmer was, or is, involved in the “Dilli Chalo” movement, and that state police had shown restraint in handling the situation.
“Punjab farmers are protesting. Haryana farmers have stayed away. I thank Haryana farmers and police for showing restraint. Punjab Chief Minister is responsible and fanning this protest. Office bearers of the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office are leading the protest,” Mr Khattar told reporters.
Thousands of farmers from several states began marching on the national capital on Wednesday. Visuals from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh show large convoys of tractors and trailers – filled with food, fuel and essential supplies – fighting their way past police blockades and barriers.
The farmers have made their intentions clear – they will not give up till they reach Delhi, and will not leave Delhi till the centre has repealed the three controversial laws. They reached the Delhi border on Friday morning, where they were met with more police barriers and tear gas.
On Friday, after the centre (which controls Delhi Police) stood down and allowed the farmers to enter the national capital, Amarinder Singh took a swipe at Manohar Lal Khattar, insisting that the Haryana government stop using “brutal force” to stop farmers from crossing through to Delhi.
A day earlier Mr Khattar and Mr Singh exchanged sharp words after one farmers’ group was stopped at the border and met by a barrage of tear gas, water cannons and military-style trenches (dug-up national highways). Mr Singh accused BJP-ruled Haryana of “provoking farmers”.
“For nearly 2 months farmers have been protesting peacefully in Punjab… why is the Haryana government provoking them by resorting to force?” he posted, tagging Mr Khattar and asking, “Don’t the farmers have the right to pass peacefully through a public highway?”
Mr Khattar shot back: “I’ve been trying to reach out to you for the last 3 days but sadly you decided to stay unreachable – is this how serious you are for farmer’s issues? You’re only tweeting and running away from talks. Why?”
The farmers are protesting laws that the centre says will reform the agricultural sector by removing middlemen and allowing them (the farmers) to sell produce anywhere in the country.
Farmers and opposition parties allege that the laws will deprive the farmers of guaranteed minimum price for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporates.