Sandeep Singh: Victory In Tohana Proves Farmers’ Protest Power

State police agreed to cancel FIRs against three arrested farmers, two of which were leaders of the movement

Sandeep Singh
June 8, 2021 | 3 min. read | Original Reporting

In the town of Tohana, in Fatehbad District of Haryana, local farmers and the SKM have won another battle in the Farmers’ Protest. 

State police agreed to cancel FIRs against three arrested farmers, two of which were leaders of the movement. The victory was secured after a three-day protest inside Tohana Police Station. 

On June 2, Haryanvi farmers were protesting against verbal abuse from JJP MLA, Devender Babli. The JJP is a coalition partner of the ruling BJP in Haryana. Police would arrest 27 farmers, but due to initial pressure, they released all but three - Ravi Azad, Vikas Sisar, and Makhan Singh. 

The refusal to release the three led to widespread anger, and SKM’s brass called for protest until they would be released. 

On June 5, Rakesh Tikait, Gurnam Singh Chaduni, and Yogendra Yadav led demonstrators to the Tohana Police Station. This included a marathon meeting that went to 3 AM. But success would come the next day, as farmers were able to force MLA Babli to apologize.

Advocate Harshdeep Moth did secure bail for Azad and Sisar on June 6, but SKM decided not to post bonds, instead demanding that the FIRs against the three farmers be canceled outright. 

A call was given to have farmers from four districts reach Tohana to put on additional pressure. However, an unidentified individual filed bonds and provided surety for both Azad and Sisar in the middle of the night - leaving all leaders shocked and curious as to what process was used to do so.

Moth shares that many believe it was done by the police in an attempt to put a damper on additional protestors arriving in the city. 

“We don’t know who filed bail bonds. It seems like the Police filed bail bonds and provided sureties so that news of release would spread, which would confuse farmers and keep them home as they would believe that the three has been released fully.” 

Regardless, the tactic did not work as thousands turned up to protest and the police succumbed to the pressure. 

Azad and Sisar are not new to jails. 

Within the last few years of their activism career, at least 10 FIRs have been filed against both of them.

Both were picked up by Haryana Police on November 23, 2020,  when Punjabi farmers were planning to march to Delhi and Haryanvis had extended them their support. 

Azad was also arrested on March 30.

31-year-old Azad is the Youth President of BKU (Haryana)

“We were going to protest outside Devender Babli’s home when we were arrested. Haryana Police booked us under false charges and we were put in jail.” 

He claims that as he is an office-bearer and has played a major role in mobilizing youth in Haryana. “The police and administration also wanted to instill fear in minds of youngsters to discourage them from joining the protest.”

36-year-old Sisar is the State President for Bhartiya Kisan Sangarsh Samiti and has been active in the movement for the last 12 years.  

“We had not broken any rule even then we were arrested. In jail, we were not provided quality food. There was no arrangement for taking bath or sleeping.”

Sisar claims that he was the first farm leader who was picked up when farmer protest had started.

“The government does not like any farmer - whoever is protesting against it - so that’s why they arrested us.”

On June 8, the final and third arrested farmer, Makhan Singh, has also been released.

Tohana proves once against that the Farmers’ Protest continues to secure wins against oppressive government action, and that people power still matters. 

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Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab


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