Chandigarh, March 29 (agencies)A group of farmers, seeking relief for crop damage, allegedly held 12 government officials hostage for several hours inside a sub-tehsil office at Lambi in Muktsar district. In protest against this, the revenue officers and employees went on strike today. On the other hand, the farmers also staged a sit-in today in protest against the lathi-jerch that took place in the night. According to the information, a case has been registered against the farmers accused of taking hostage. It is noteworthy that after the protesters refused to free the officers, they were freed late Monday night with the help of the police. The officers taken hostage included a naib tehsildar and some patwaris. These farmers were demanding compensation for the damage caused to the cotton crop by insects of pink bollworm species. Revenue officers across the state went on strike on Tuesday in protest against this incident. A group of over 100 farmers under the banner of a farmers’ union staged a protest outside the sub-tehsil in Lambi on Monday, police said. Police said the protesters entered the office building in the evening and held the officers hostage till midnight. Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sandeep Kumar Malik said that 12 government officials were taken hostage. The SSP said senior police officials and the sub-divisional magistrate there tried to pacify them and assured a meeting with higher officials to address their concerns. “But they stuck to their word and kept the officers hostage till late in the night,” Malik said over the phone on Tuesday. Keeping in mind the safety of those held hostage, the administration directed the police to evacuate them safely, he said.
Malik denied reports that the police had used force against the farmers to free the officers. “We freed the officers in a restrained and peaceful manner. No force was used. Before leaving to free the officials, we requested them (farmers) several times that they can hold dharna, but government officials cannot be held captive for performing their duty.” He said that later an FIR was registered based on the written complaint of the officials. Malik said that an FIR has been registered against 8 to 9 people and some unidentified persons. However, a farmer leader told reporters in Lambi on Tuesday that police used force and 6 to 7 protesters were injured.