Haryana DGP denies using pellet guns against protesting farmers

The farmers were stopped by Haryana Police as they prepared to march to Delhi, over 200 km away, to protest over 12 demands which include a guaranteed minimum support price on crops

February 18, 2024 07:34 pm | Updated February 19, 2024 11:00 am IST - NEW DELHI

A man shows the injuries caused by pellets fired by police officials, while tractors and trolleys belonging to farmers, who are marching towards New Delhi to press for better crop pricesare parked on a national highway at Shambhu, a border crossing between Punjab and Haryana on February 15, 2024.

A man shows the injuries caused by pellets fired by police officials, while tractors and trolleys belonging to farmers, who are marching towards New Delhi to press for better crop pricesare parked on a national highway at Shambhu, a border crossing between Punjab and Haryana on February 15, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Haryana Director General of Police Shatrujeet Kapur on February 18 said the police were using “minimum force” and denied the usage of pellet guns against farmers who have been blocked at two locations — Khanuari and Shambhu Barrier — along the Punjab-Haryana border since February 13.

The farmers were stopped by the Haryana Police as they prepared to march to Delhi, over 200 km away, to protest over 12 demands which include a guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) on crops.

Also read | Police action against them spurs support for farmers

Farm leaders have alleged that several persons were injured by pellet guns and some may lose their vision as metal shrapnel pierced their eyes. In the past, pellet guns were used in Jammu and Kashmir during the 2016 unrest, leaving several people partially or fully blind. Last year they were used in Manipur, leading to a huge outrage.

Mr. Kapur told The Hindu that a standard operating procedure (SOP) was being followed by the police to deter the protesters and the aim was not to injure the people.

He said the mob was raising “anti-India slogans and indulged in extreme provocative actions.”

‘SOP being followed’

When asked specifically if pellet guns were used against protesters, Mr. Kapur said, “No, the SOP being followed by the police is to first use tear gas, then water cannons, cane charge and lastly rubber bullets are fired from a distance of 50-60 yards. The rubber bullets are not aimed directly at the mob, they are pointed to the ground which ricochet and then hit the target. We do not want to injure the people,” Mr. Kapur said.

When told that there were several videos and photographs showing metal shrapnel lodged in the bodies of protesters, the DGP said, “I have not come across photographs or reports in newspapers of pellet gun injuries. Our response is limited to rubber bullets. This is a different kind of atmosphere. They are hurling anti-India slogans. There are many disturbing images and videos. They [mob] are taking extreme provocative actions.”

Also Read | Delhi Chalo’ protests | Why farmers are marching to Delhi?

The officer visited the two locations where the farmers have been stopped ahead of the crucial fourth round of talks between the farmers’ union and a group of three Union Ministers — Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai.

Mr. Kapur said the Rapid Action Force (RAF), the anti-riot Central armed police force, was assisting the State police in handling the protesters at the two locations.

Around 65 companies of Central police forces have been deployed in Haryana.

‘Around 200 injured’

Amrik Singh, a farm union member said, “Around 200 people have received serious injuries, including by pellet guns. Some are still admitted to hospitals in Chandigarh and Patiala.”

He said that for the first two days, the police were firing tear gas from drones, which had stopped for now.

Also Read | Farming consensus: On the government and the farmers on protest 

“They are firing at us as if we are terrorists or belong to an enemy country. No anti-India sloganeering is being done here. We simply want to march to Delhi to press the Union government to fulfil the commitments they made during the 2021 agitation,” Mr. Singh said.

Earlier, the Haryana Police posted videos of protesters on X with a message in Hindi, “Despite the assurance of peaceful protest on the Shambhu border bordering Punjab, continuous efforts are being made by the protesters to provoke the policemen. Appeal of Haryana Police — Cooperate in maintaining law and order.”

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