Braving tear gas shells and water cannons, hundreds of farmers on Sunday broke through barricades, stormed Kaimla village in Chief Minister ML Khattar’s home constituency Karnal and ransacked the venue for a “kisan mahapanchayat”, forcing the CM to cancel his programme.
The protesting farmers, who had the villagers’ support, damaged the helipad where Khattar’s chopper was to land. A face-off between local BJP workers and the farmers left 10 persons with minor injuries. The farmers breached six police checkpoints to reach the helipad. A strong police contingent comprising four Superintendents of Police and more than 12 DSPs deployed at various points failed to prevent them from entering the village.
The “kisan mahapanchayat”, which was planned to educate the farmers on the “benefits” of the recent farm laws, was to be addressed by the CM, who was also to dedicate to the people projects worth Rs 47.17 crore. Hundreds of farmers carrying black flags started assembling at the Bastara toll plaza in the morning. Around 11.30 am, they began moving towards Kaimla village on tractors, SUVs and bikes, crossing the first barricade on the Gharaunda-Kaimla road without any resistance.
At the second barricade, the police had lined up trucks and dumpers to foil the march. When stopped by Ganga Ram Punia, SP, and other officers, the protesters staged a sit-in. Later, parking their vehicles on the roadside, they proceeded on foot. As they crossed the third barricade, the police used tear gas shells and water cannons. Changing strategy in view of the heavy police deployment, the protesters made their way through the fields and reached Kaimla where tear gas shells once again failed to stop them. Raising slogans, they stormed the venue, tearing down banners, smashing flower pots, and breaking tables and chairs.
BJP state president OP Dhankar, ministers Kanwar Pal Gujjar, Sandeep Singh, local MP Sanjay Bhatia and other leaders left after the protesting farmers laid siege to the venue. As the strength of the farmers began to swell, some of them took shelter in a nearby shrine.
The farmers had on January 6 announced they would not allow the BJP to hold the “Mahapanchayat”. On January 8, they had organised a march to Kaimla village to “disrupt” preparations for the event.
This was the CM’s first “kisan mahapanchayat” for which local MLA Harvinder Kalyan had made all arrangements. Similar panchayats were to be organised across the state.