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A large number of farmers stayed put outside the gates of the district headquarters here on September 8 as they remained firm on their demand for action against IAS officer Ayush Sinha, who ordered a police lathi-charge on a group of peasants last month.

Locked in a showdown with the Haryana government over the lathi-charge, the farmers squatted at the gates of the mini-secretariat on the evening of September 7 after talks with the local administration failed. Many spent the night outside the mini-secretariat.

The protesters are demanding action over the police lathi-charge here on August 28. Their main demand centres around Mr. Sinha, former Karnal SDM. He was later transferred out as part of a larger bureaucratic shuffle. The officer, whose suspension farmers' union leaders are demanding, was caught on tape allegedly telling policemen to "break heads" if the protesters crossed the line.

About 10 protesters were hurt in the clash with police as they tried to march towards the venue of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) meeting. Their leaders also claimed that a farmer died later, an allegation rejected by the administration.

'Protest through the night'

A number of farmers along with many leaders of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) spent the night outside the main entry of the mini-secretariat.

In the morning, volunteers at the protest site were seen preparing tea and serving breakfast.

"We are not going anywhere from here until our demands are met," Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni told reporters on September 8.

On the demand for Mr. Sinha's suspension, he said, "First, we are saying transferring him is not a punishment. We are also saying when farmers are booked for even road blockade, why not take action against the officer who ordered [police] to break heads. Is there any law under which such an order can be given?" The movement of traffic on the Delhi-Karnal-Ambala NH-44 remained normal.

Security had been beefed up here on September 6, a day before farmers' mahapanchayat, and central forces deployed.

The gherao began on the evening of September 7, several hours after farmers from Haryana and neighbouring states reached Karnal's New Anaj Mandi for the mahapanchayat, riding tractors and motorcycles.

They marched on foot from the mahapanchayat venue to the mini-secretariat about five km away.

Protest leaders Rakesh Tikait and Yogendra Yadav are also at the gherao site.

Karnal Deputy Commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav had on September 7 said that the administration had invited the farm leaders for another round of talks and that it was hopeful of resolving the issue.

The Home Department has extended the suspension of mobile internet services in Karnal until the midnight of September 8 as the situation is "still volatile".

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) banning gathering of people have been imposed in the district.