For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

Farmers Suspend Protest as Youth Dies of Suspected ‘Bullet Injury’, Several Hurt in Tear Gas Shelling

At a press conference on Wednesday, farmer leaders said they would review the situation on Friday evening and decide a future course of action. The influential Samyukta Kisan Morcha has condemned the young farmer's death.
Farmers at Shambhu Barrier, with machines to remove barricades. Photo: Special arrangement

Chandigarh: Farmer leaders have suspended their protest for two days after a young farmer died of a ‘bullet injury’ on a day when police have dropped tear gas shells on protesters at the Shambhu and Khanauri barriers on the Punjab-Haryana border.

The police action came even as the Union government invited them for another round of talks.

At a press conference on Wednesday (February 21), farmer leaders said they would review the situation on Friday evening and decide a future course of action.

The age of the deceased young farmer is unclear. He is believed to be 24 years old, but some reports say he was 21.

H.S. Rekhi, the medical superintendent at the government-run Rajindra Hospital, told reporters that the youth was brought dead at about 3 pm.

“He appeared to have died of bullet injury, rest will be confirmed after the autopsy,” Rekhi said.

Originally from Ballo village in Bathinda, he was protesting at the Khanauri site, from where he was brought to the hospital.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmers’ unions that played a key role in the 2020-21 farm protests but has stayed away from the ongoing ‘Delhi chalo’ (‘march to Delhi’) movement so far, strongly condemned the “brutal” police repression and the death of the young farmer today.

In a statement, the SKM said this was a brutal assault on bread-earners from farmer families when they were protesting only for the implementation of the written promises made by the prime minister following the 2020-21 protests.

The SKM added that the prime minister and the executive, whom it said failed to implement the agreement with it signed on December 9, 2021, are solely responsible for the present crisis and the young farmer’s death.

It continued that it was taking the state of affairs at the Punjab border with due seriousness and will hold a meeting of its national coordination committee and its general body on February 22 in Delhi, where it will discuss the situation comprehensively and take decisive action on advancing the struggle.

Meanwhile, the Haryana police has claimed that farmers set fire to kindling mixed with chilli powder and that 12 personnel were seriously injured.

Before the youth’s death, farmer leaders Sarwan Pandher, who is convener of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, and Jagjit Singh Dallewal, who heads the SKM (non-political), a splinter group of the SKM, had announced that the march would continue to Delhi.

Both had started moving towards the police barricades at the Shambhu barrier.

They said they have never refused talks but stressed that it is not possible to hold discussions in such an environment, where farmers were facing extreme action from security forces.

Earlier in the day, Patiala district civil surgeon Raminder Kaur had told The Wire that so far, 11 injured farmers have been brought from the Khanauri border, while one farmer has arrived from the Shambhu barrier. While most of them are stable, one has sustained a head injury while another has a leg injury, Kaur said.

Farmers at the site said that no action from their side had been provocative.

Farmers brought bulldozers and other earth-moving vehicles to the point where the police have stopped their movement, as they had anticipated a resumption of their ‘Delhi chalo‘ march.

This was despite the fact that the Punjab Police issued directions to its field staff to prevent these heavy vehicles to reach the border areas, on the request of their Haryana counterparts.

The Haryana Police has put up multi-layered security to stop farmers on the Haryana side of the Shambhu barrier. More than 10,000 farmers have been camping at Shambhu barrier since February 13.

Centre asks for another round

Meanwhile, the Union government extended the invitation for another around of talks with farmers ahead of their Delhi march call.

Sharing information through X, Union agriculture minister Arjun Munda stated that the Centre is ready to discuss all issues of MSP demand, crop diversification, stubble burning and so on in a fifth round of talks.

“I request farmers to maintain peace,” he added.

It is now to be seen if farmer leaders accept the invitation and halt their march or march ahead to Delhi as they announced two days ago after fourth round of talks last Sunday failed to make any breakthrough.

Farmers at Shambhu with protective glasses and gas masks. Photo: By arrangement.

Earlier developments

Farmers stopped their march after multiple rounds of talks began with Union government in Chandigarh.

However, farmers rejected the Union’s latest proposal on a minimum support price (MSP) guarantee, which fell short of the kind of law the farmers were demanding, tabled during the fourth round of talks held on Sunday. Now, they plan to revive their march with full force from today.

While Union agriculture minister Arjun Munda appealed for peace ahead of the farmers’ march resumption and asked them to take the discussion forward for a viable solution, but the farmers are unconvinced.

Pandher said in a statement: “…We have told the government that you can kill us but please don’t oppress the farmers. We request the prime minister to come forward and put an end to this protest by announcing a law on the MSP guarantee for the farmers…The country will not forgive such a government…There are paramilitary forces deployed in the villages of Haryana…What crime have we committed?…We have made you the prime minister. We never thought that the forces would oppress us this way…Please protect the Constitution and let us peacefully head towards Delhi. This is our right…”

Farmers at Shambhu cover faces to protect themselves from tear gas. Photo: By arrangement.

Farmers at Shambhu cover their faces to protect themselves from tear gases. Some are pictured with heavy equipment. Photo: By arrangement.

Meanwhile, the number of injured and dead have been increasing.

More than 100 farmers have already suffered injuries, while two died of heart attacks in the last one week. On the other hand, two security personnel of the Haryana police too have reportedly died after falling sick while on duty at the border.

Pandher further said, “We attended the meetings with Union ministers, every point was discussed and now the decision has to be taken by the Union government. We will remain peaceful…The Prime Minister should come forward and accept our demands. Rs 1.5-2 lakh crore is not a huge amount. We should be allowed to remove these barriers and march towards Delhi.”

Dallewal also said, “Our intention is not to create any chaos… It is not right that such huge barricades are placed to stop us. We want to go to Delhi peacefully”.

This is a developing story and is being republished and updated.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter