7 farmer leaders, 250 supporters booked for blocking Panchkula-Shimla highway

The farmers in Panchkula had gathered on the call of farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni to protest against the lathicharge while demanding the release of arrested farmers immediately.

Police have booked seven local farmer leaders and their 250 unidentified supporters for blocking the Panchkula-Shimla highway at Chandimandir toll plaza on August 28 as they gathered to protest against the lathicharge on farmers in Karnal.

The farmers in Panchkula had gathered on the call of farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni to protest against the lathicharge while demanding the release of arrested farmers immediately.

The protest had remained peaceful with several hundred farmers blocking the highway, which had led to long jams on the weekend. High police presence with several senior officers had marked the site on day of the protest. Hundreds of people from Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, who were on their way to Shimla and Kasauli, were stuck in the jam for several hours.

The farmer leaders named in the FIR are Gurjant Singh, Bhim Singh, Gurmail Singh, Narender Singh, Taranjeet, Sumitra Dahiya and Rajwinder Kaur.

The farmers have been charged under several sections including 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 143 (unlawful assembly), 145 (joining or continuing in unlawful assembly, knowing it has been commanded to disperse), 147 (rioting), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 283 (obstruction in public way), 341 (wrongful restraint), 431 (mischief by injury to public road, bridge, river or channel) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 8B of the National Highway Act.

The police registered the FIR at Chandimandir police station on the complaint of a police official deployed for law and order at the toll plaza.

‘’Farmer leaders along with their 200-250 supporters blocked the National Highway, affecting traffic movement. I along with my fellow policemen tried to persuade them to allow free flow of traffic but they remained adamant and obstructed public servant in discharge of duty,’’ the FIR read, quoting the policeman.

Narender Singh, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader named in the FIR, when reached for comment said, “I did not even know we have been booked. They did the same thing last year as well. No one was hurt in the protest and neither was public property damaged. The protest was peaceful, but the police booked us on serious charges, including criminal conspiracy and rioting. There is no conspiracy, we are only fighting for our rights.”

Sumitra Dahiya, 59, one of the two women protesters booked by the police, said, ‘’We have a right to hold peaceful protest. The FIR filed against us is illegitimate. We have videographic evidence that our protest was non-violent.”

Police officials stated they were gathering videographic evidence to initiate action against the farmer leaders and their protesters.

Similar FIRs

Even on September 11 last year, farmers answering to the call to participate in the Kisan Bachao-Mandi Bacho rally being held at Pipli, gathered together to mark their dissent against unjust schemes and present demands in front of the current government, were booked under several sections by the Panchkula police.

The farmers were stopped near Mauli village’s bus stop on the national highway 7 along with a large number of policemen and senior district officials deployed in the area. Finding no option and unwilling to disturb peace, the farmers had staged a sit-in protest at the spot. The protest had remained peaceful and the farmers had returned to their homes after 5 pm.

Despite this, at least 10 farmers, each head of their specific areas and villages, were booked by the Panchkula police under several sections of the IPC including 188 (punishment for disobedience to an order duly promulgated by a public servant), 269 & 270 (act likely to spread infection) along with Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act.

In another such instance in April this year, the Panchkula police had booked four identified and 25-30 unidentified farmers who had waved black flags at Haryana Speaker and local MLA Gian Chand Gupta’s convoy and blocked its path at Chandimandir toll plaza. The farmers then too had been booked under various charges including rioting and obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions.

The FIR by a policeman present at the spot had alleged the accused blocked the convoy of Haryana Speaker Gian Chand Gupta, damaged the bonnet of vehicles, engaged in scuffle with the police, obstructed public servants from discharging their duty and violated Covid rules.

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