Cong workers protest over farm laws, face water cannon in Chandigarh

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Chandigarh, Jan 15 (PTI) Congress workers held protests here on Friday in support of farmers agitating over the new agri-marketing laws, with one group facing a water cannon as it tried to push past police barricades.

The Congress had planned to gherao the Punjab and Haryana Raj Bhavans as part of a nationwide protest called by the party over the new farm laws.

Haryana Congress leaders were detained by police as they marched towards the state Raj Bhavan. A separate march by the party’s Punjab unit was also stopped.

Police used a water cannon against workers from the party’s Chandigarh unit as they tried to march towards Punjab Bhavan. Several of them were taken into custody.

State Congress chief Kumari Selja, Haryana in-charge at AICC Vivek Bansal, former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Randeep Singh Surjewala and Kiran Choudhary were among the Haryana unit party leaders detained by the Chandigarh police.

They were taken to different police stations and later released.

Police had put up barricades to stop protesters from moving towards the official residences of the Punjab and Haryana governors located in the joint capital of the two states.

Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore is also the administrator of the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

The Congress observed the day as ‘Kisan Adhikar Diwas’ to support 'farmers’ rights'. The party was also protesting against hike in fuel prices.

Thousands of farmers from the two states are camping at Delhi’s border for the past several weeks, demanding the repeal of the three agri-marketing laws enacted at the Centre last September.

State party chief Sunil Jakhar led the protest by the Punjab unit of the Congress. Punjab ministers including Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Manpreet Singh Badal, Balbir Singh Sidhu, Sunder Sham Arora and Bharat Bhushan Ashu took part.

MPs Preneet Kaur, Mohammad Sadique and Amar Singh were also part of the protest by the party’s Punjab unit.

When Punjab Congress workers were not allowed to march towards the Raj Bhavan, they squatted on the road and raised slogans against the BJP-led government at the Centre.

Earlier, Jakhar slammed the Centre for not agreeing to the farmers’ demand to repeal the new laws.

He said the central government did not have any respect for democratic practices and public opinion.

“It is the arrogance of this government that is preventing it from repealing the laws which have been outrightly rejected by the farming community across the country,” Jakhar claimed, warning against a prolonged stalemate on the issue.

The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president accused the BJP of trying to undermine the institutions which he said came into being after a long struggle by his party.

Jakhar held the Narendra Modi government responsible for the “martyrdom” of farmers who have died while being part of the protest against the new laws.

He said not just the farmers, but every section of society was 'annoyed and agitated' over the laws which could end up “compromising' the country’s food security.

Hooda said the struggle will continue till the Centre repeals them. Chandigarh Congress president Pardeep Chhabra also said they will not give up until the farmers’ demands are met. PTI CHS VSD ASH ASH