Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Saturday hit out at “brutal” police action against farmers in Haryana’s Karnal district earlier in the day, tweeting two lines in Hindi to underline the country’s “shame” over a lathi charge that left several people injured.
Mr Gandhi tweeted a horrifying photograph – of a man whose white kurta pajama was splattered with blood, and who was holding a bloodied cloth to tend to wounds on his head. The man is being led away by two others, who are not in the frame.
“Again the blood of farmers is shed… and India bows its head in shame,” Mr Gandhi tweeted.
Farmers who’d gathered to peacefully protest against a meeting led by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar (to discuss forthcoming municipal polls) were lathi charged by police near the Bastara toll plaza, when tried to stop a convoy carrying state BJP chief OP Dhankar.
Visuals shared on social media showed images every bit as disturbing as the image shared by Mr Gandhi; one video showed two policemen in riot gear arguing with a man in bloody clothes.
Furious, farmers across the state responded by blocking major roads and highways, demanding the release of those who had been arrested and treatment for the injured.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha – the umbrella body under which many farmer groups have united to protest the farm laws – slammed the police for their “brutal” actions.
The protests affected traffic on major roads and highways, including NH3 and the Delhi-Amritsar highway, and led to a jam at the Shambhu toll plaza leading to Ambala.
Apart from Mr Gandhi, the Congress’ Haryana chief also slammed the violence.
In a video statement Kumari Selja said: “What happened to our farmers in Karnal is a matter of great concern… the Congress party condemns this attack in the strongest possible language. What you saw today was evidence of the BJP’s disregard for farmers and their safety…”.
She also referred to a video that has been shared widely, in which Ayush Sinha, the District Magistrate of Karnal, can be heard telling police to “break their (the farmers) head”.
The Congress has been vocal in its criticism of the BJP government at the centre over the three controversial farm laws, and insistent in its support for the farmers.
The party united with others to repeatedly stall the recently-concluded monsoon session of parliament, raising the farmers protest and the three farm laws, among other points, to derail the House.
During the session Mr Gandhi drove a tractor to the Parliament to highlight farmers’ protests, and the Kerala MP and 14 other opposition leaders also staged a joint protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.
The three farm laws have triggered widespread and furious protests from farmers; they say the laws will rob them of guaranteed prices for their crops and leave them at the mercy of corporate interests. The government, however, has insisted the laws will benefit farmers.
Several rounds of talks have been held but no resolution is in sight, with the government unwilling to scrap the laws (one of the farmers’ demands) and the farmers standing firm.
A central panel last met farmers’ leaders on January 22. There have been no talks since January 26, when a tractor rally in the national capital turned violent.