Karnal (Har), Jan 10 (PTI) Protesting farmers here on Sunday vandalised the venue of a “kisan mahapanchayat” where Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar was to address people to highlight “benefits” of the Centre's three agriculture laws.
The Haryana Police used water cannons and lobbed teargas shells to prevent farmers from marching towards Kaimla village, where the programme was to be held.
The farmers, however, reached the venue and damaged a makeshift helipad where Khattar's chopper was to land despite elaborate security arrangements made by police. Some protesters also uprooted its tiles.
They damaged the programme stage, breaking chairs, tables and flower pots at the venue. Police personnel were also pelted with stones and had to run for cover.
They also tore BJP hoardings and uprooted banners in the presence of police.
Under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni), farmers had earlier announced to oppose the “kisan mahapanchayat”.
Later in the evening, Khattar accused BKU (Charuni) president Gurnam Singh Charuni, the Congress and Communists for 'instigating' people.
Police had made elaborate security arrangements for the chief minister's visit to the village where he was to speak to people to highlight “benefits” of the new farm laws.
Director General of Police (Crime) Muhammad Akil was also present at the spot.
The protesting farmers earlier carried black flags and shouted slogans against the BJP-led state government as they attempted to march towards Kaimla village.
Police put up barricades at the entry points of the village to prevent them from reaching the programme venue.
However, the farmers crossed the barricade put up at Gharaunda on the Kaimla road.
Police had also parked several trucks carrying sand at one of the roads to prevent them from entering Kaimla village. Karnal Superintendent of Police Ganga Ram Punia also tried to pacify the agitators, but in vain.
“All farmers are here to whom the CM 'sahib' intends to explain the farm laws. We will not allow the government to hold this programme,” a protester said.
The farmers criticised the state government, saying it was holding a programme over the laws at a time when farmers across the country protesting against these.
The government is trying to rub salt into our wounds with this 'kisan mahapanchayat', another protester added.
Some local villagers and BJP workers also had a face-off with the protesters when they reached the venue.
Police also resorted to mild cane charge to disperse them.
Addressing the media in Chandigarh, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar said he gave directions to land his chopper in Karnal keeping in mind the law and order situation.
He held the Congress and Communists responsible for this incident, saying such “andhergardi” is not acceptable. “If anybody is involved in this agitation, it is the Congress and Communists,” he claimed.
Khattar said some farmer leaders who had assured not to disrupt the event backtracked from their promise. “I want to state that there is a strong democracy in the country and everybody has the right to put forth his point,” he said.
He said those who were behind the act have defamed the farming community. “Our farmers do not involve in such things,” he said.
The CM said whatever he wanted to say to people in the “kisan mahapanchayat” was said by party leaders who were present there.
To a question, Khattar denied that there was any intelligence failure behind this incident.
Reacting to the incident, Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the government should avoid confrontation with farmers.
'Farmers have certain apprehensions over the new farm Acts. The government should rather repeal these Acts as desired by farmers and avoid confrontation with them by holding functions like the mahapanchayat,' he said.
The former CM reiterated his demand of convening a session of the state assembly.
'This government has lost the faith of its legislators and people. The Congress wants to bring a no-confidence motion against the Khattar government,' he said.
Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja said the mahapanchayat convened by Khattar did not get support from people.
'The government has lost the trust of people,' she said.
AICC general secretary Randeep singh Surjewala said the proposed mahapanchayat was a 'government sponsored' event which has been shown 'its true picture' by the protesters. Meanwhile, a purported video of BKU leader Gurnam Singh Charuni, making an appeal to end the arrogance of the CM by not allowing him to address the mahapanchayat, circulated on social media.
On January 6, the BKU (Charuni) had threatened to oppose the “kisan mahapanchayat”.
Besides addressing the programme, the Haryana CM was also supposed to announce development works worth Rs 47 crore for Karnal. PTI CHS VSD SRY RDK RDK