Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday lashed out at his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar for the crackdown on farmers protesting the centre’s new agricultural laws, saying that he will not even answer the latter’s phone calls now because of the way he has acted.
“He doesn’t know what to say, so, he is saying all this. Punjab is not stopping its farmers because it is their right to protest. Why are you stopping them? Why are you using water cannons and tear-gassing them? When we are not stopping them and Delhi is not stopping them, who are you to stop them? I don’t like this dishonest behaviour. He can call me 10 times now, I won’t pick up his call,” he told NDTV, rubbishing charges that he had not answered three phone calls from Mr Khattar.
The Chief Minister was responding to Mr Khattar’s accusations that Captain Singh was responsible for the thousands of angry farmers marching to Delhi and some throwing stones and overturning barricades in response to a heavy-handed police crackdown in Haryana.
Mr Khattar, whose government and police have been criticised for brutish attempts to beat back what began as a peaceful protest, also claimed that no Haryana farmer was, or is, involved in the “Dilli Chalo” movement and that state police had shown restraint in handling the situation.
“Punjab farmers are protesting. Haryana farmers have stayed away. I thank Haryana farmers and police for showing restraint. Punjab Chief Minister is responsible and fanning this protest. Office bearers of the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office are leading the protest,” Mr Khattar told reporters.
Thousands of farmers from several states began marching on the national capital on Wednesday. Visuals from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh showed large convoys of tractors and trailers – filled with food, fuel and essential supplies – fighting their way past police blockades and barriers.
Amarinder Singh addressed concerns about coronavirus safety rules being violated, saying, “Regardless of the virus, the farmers have gone to Delhi because this is beyond everything. This is much bigger. The farmer is thinking about how he will secure food for his children. For God’s sake, let’s think about them. Think about what will matter to them. What’s the harm in bringing some sort of clarity on this.”
He also said it was important to assuage the farmers’ concerns from a national security point of view. “I am the Chief Minister of a border state. I know what Pakistan is up to,” he said.