India

Haryana MLA Says Sorry After Spat With Farmers Leads To Massive Protest

Haryana MLA Says Sorry After Spat With Farmers Leads To Massive Protest

Farmers have been protesting the centre's contentious farm laws since June last year

Chandigarh:

Haryana MLA Devendra Singh Babli of the JJP - which is allied with the ruling BJP - has apologised for abusive comments made during a spat with a group of farmers in the state's Tohana town on Tuesday, while they were protesting the centre's controversial farm laws.

"I forgive those who were involved in the incident which happened on June 1 and offer my apologies for using words that don't behove a public representative. I regret this and offer my apologies," he said Saturday evening, after a meeting with protesting farmer leaders.

Rakesh Tikait, who has emerged as the influential face of the farmers' protests and led hundreds of farmers on a protest march to the Tohana Police Station earlier in the day, accepted the apology.

"It is good that the MLA has apologised... now the (farmers') committee is negotiating with the MLA and will take further decisions," he said.

However, despite the MLA's apology some farmers have continued to protest; they are demanding the release of three who were arrested after the Tuesday clashes. 

Devendra Babli's apology came after hundreds of farmers - led by top leaders like Tikait and Gurnam Singh Chaduni - marched to the Tohana Police Station under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which is leading the year-long protest against the farm laws.

They were protesting the MLA's remarks and the arrest of three farmers over the clashes. They had also said they would surround police stations across Haryana on Monday if he did not apologise.

Two FIRs had been registered against the farmers in connection with the clashes in Tohana, in which farmers surrounded Babli's vehicle. Farmers were booked for manhandling the MLA.

A third was registered after farmers surrounded his home the following day. Around 30 protesters were taken into custody by local police, news agency PTI said.

Devendra Babli had accused the farmers of a "murderous attempt on me" and claimed they hit his vehicle thrice, and injured his assistant. He had denied using abusive language.

Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni has appealed to protesters to agitate in a peaceful manner.

"We don't have to take any such step that will break this agitation. This agitation is at that stage that one small lapse can cost us heavily. We have to continue in a peaceful manner," he said.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday said he had no problem with farmers launching protests, but cautioned them against "taking law and order into one's hands".

"... if any protest is held in a peaceful manner, the government has no objection to it. However, if anyone takes law and order into one's hands, that will not be tolerated," he was quoted by PTI.

"And whatever action needs to be taken as per law in those cases, Deputy Commissioners have been told not to hesitate and take action," he added.

A day earlier Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij issued a similar warning.

Farmers have been protesting the farm laws - which they say will leave them at the mercy of corporate interests - since June last year. The government insists the laws are pro-farmer.

Several rounds of talks have failed to break the deadlock.

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.

With input from PTI