As farmers leaders chalked out their next course of action after a two-day pause, they were hopeful of a resolution to their key demands through talks but simultaneously ready to resume the “Delhi chalo” march if the talks failed.

Also read: ‘Under protest’, X blocks accounts related to farmers’ protest on Centre’s orders

There were no words from the Centre till Friday evening about when it wants to have the next round of talks. For the last four rounds of talks, it has been the government which proposed the date and time of the meetings.

From the spot, there were reports of a police officer being injured in Khedi Chwpata in Haryana’s Hisar. Visuals from the spot showed that the police - escorted by riot personnel in full gear - was taking people into custody while groups of farmers were surrounding them. There was a lot of commotion and some violence - in which tear gas shells were fired and police resorted to a lathi charge. Protesters threw stones when they were stopped from marching to Khanauri on the Punjab border.

They were headed to join thousands others who have gathered there and at the Shambhu border crossing, waiting for instructions for the ‘Delhi Chalo’ march.

Farmer deaths

Earlier, a 62-year-old farmer died in Khanauri after suffering a cardiac arrest. Darshan Singh was from Punjab’s Bathinda district, and was the second person from Bathinda to have died in these protests. On Wednesday Subhkaran Singh, 21, died during a clash with the cops. 

Singh died after farmers rushed barricades set up by the police at the Khanauri border crossing to stop them from reaching Delhi. Farmer leaders said his body - a (delayed) postmortem showed a head injury - would not be cremated till the Punjab government registers a case against the person responsible. 

Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann - who expressed sorrow over Subhkaran Singh’s death - said a case would be filed after the post-mortem. “Those responsible will have to face stringent action,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader said, as he announced ₹1 crore compensation and employment for Singh’s sister.

However, many farmers seemed ignorant of the status of their key demands – legal guarantee and Swaminathan formula. The assumption of the farmers is a hike in the selling price of wheat and rice if the demands are met. A lot of the protesting farmers were also hoping for a waiver from the protest.

Also read: Centre hopeful of resolving farmers’ protest before wheat procurement season 

Last year, the Centre had procured nearly 75 per cent of wheat and 99 per cent of paddy produced in Punjab at MSP. Taking all India average projected C2 cost of production of wheat at ₹1652/quintal, Punjab farmers will earn ₹2,478/quintal in Swaminathan panel’s suggestion of C2+50 per cent formula is accepted, which is ₹203/quintal (or 9 per cent) higher from MSP of ₹2,275/quintal.

Current protests

Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra on Thursday had said that probably the Centre could not communicate effectively with the farmer leaders on the proposals, which got rejected by them.

As the current protest is mostly confined to Punjab as political manoeuvring by Haryana government resulted in neutralisation of the protest call, so far. Many people who are against the farmers’ protest before the General Elections have alleged that it has been getting support from Punjab government.

Rajasthan government did not allow the tractor march to begin from the state by taking preventive actions, detaining/arresting farmer leaders. In western Uttar Pradesh, too it has not yet evoked any significant response as farmers unions are divided. Unlike the 2020 protest, this time there is no unanimity to lead the protest from one platform even though demands are same.

But, Haryana government has been active this time before the protest reached its border from Punjab as it did not want the repeat of the 2021 violence in Delhi after farmers took out the infamous tractor march. However, while maintaining a strict vigil on the border points with Punjab, Haryana Police guards the barrier on the road, blocked with boulder, concrete, iron wire and nailing.

Also read: Farmers protest may drag on until poll schedule announcement by EC

On the other hand, Haryana Police on Friday revoked its earlier decision to book all farmer leaders under section 2(3) of the National Security Act, 1980, which is seen as move to hold the next round of talks at the earliest. District police in Ambala on Thursday had issued a statement saying it was planning to detain protesting farmer leaders.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also on Friday announced that interest and penalty will be waived on crop loans taken by farmers form Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS) in case it was availed before September 30, 2023 and the principal amount is repaid by May 31, 2024.