Twenty-one farmer activists from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Sidhupur) courted arrest days after the alleged assault on Arun Narang, BJP MLA from Abohar, took place. On March 28, Narang, who was in Malout town in Punjab’s Mukstar district to attend a scheduled press conference, was assaulted by a group of protesters. Four persons were arrested following the incident, of which three were later released and 23 others were booked in assault case.
On Thursday, 21 farmer activists were arrested after they made their way to the police asking to be arrested in the wake of police raiding houses of “innocent” farmers.
BKU (Ekta Sidhupur) state president Jagjit Singh Dallewal accused the police of raiding the houses of innocent farmers and harassing them. Speaking to Newsclick, Dallewal said: “The farmer activists who are being raided and harassed by the police were not even present at the spot. This is a clear attempt to create fear among the common masses and to break our spirit.”
Dallewal said that it was later decided upon that the episode took place at an event organised by the union, hence, it will take the responsibility.
“All the 21 farmers who have courted arrests didn’t participate in the harassment or assault. We have been forced to take on the responsibility because the police has been harassing innocent farmers,” he said.
Commenting on those who allegedly harassed the BJP MLA, Dallewal said: “Look, there are many people who join our protest in support of the farmers’ struggle, including shopkeepers, locals and workers. We can’t keep a count of who is joining us. But we can vouch for our activists and farmers as they know that we don’t endorse or encourage such violent acts.”
Dallewal said that it had been announced that no political events should take place during the Bharat Bandh on March 26 and that they were in Malout to protest against the same. “Why was the press conference held when it was already announced? There is a lot of anger against the BJP already. Some miscreants did what they did. We don’t want innocent farmers to get arrested in false cases. The court will prove that we are not guilty,” he added.
Dallewal maintained that they were undeterred in the face of the police flexing its muscles and said that political event by the BJP in the future will be resisted democratically.
Following the incident, Shamsher Singh Sandhu, BJP president of Malout, resigned from the party on Thursday, saying the agitating farmers were not letting him go about his work.
“I am a farmer too. The farmers are really agitated. They are not letting any one associated with the BJP do party work. There is a lot of anger. We can’t enter villages or do the work assigned to us. There is no use. Hence, I decided to resign,” Singh told Newsclick.
The anger against the BJP-led Centre and the party in particular, is palpable in Punjab. Sources told Newsclick that BJP leaders have not been allowed to work, that many have cut ties with the party and others have not disclosed their association with the right-wing party.
The resentment against the party was also visible in the recently conducted local civic body polls in Punjab, where in BJP faced the heat with dismal performance in the backdrop of the ongoing agitation against the three Farm Laws. Newsclick had earlier reported how posters of BJP candidates were removed from walls and that they were smeared with black ink in some places. Many BJP candidates were not coming out in the open about their nomination, fearing a backlash, while others had contested as independents.
Commenting on the anger against the BJP, veteran journalist and political commentator from Punjab, Jagtar Singh, said the party had been “provoking farmers by calling them Khalistanis, Naxalities, among other things. Farmers have every right to protest democratically and the BJP has no right to malign them like that. This is what has contributed to the party’s current state. This has never happened earlier. Punjab has seen many struggles and strikes but it is for the first time that leaders of a particular party are not being allowed to function. What happened in Malout was not correct but to say farmers are misguided is incorrect too. These are people whose survival is at stake, how are they misguided?”
Speaking on the future of the BJP in Punjab, Singh said that the party is not a serious force in Punjab. “This party can’t win one or two assembly seats out of 117 on its own; not a single seat out of 13 Lok Sabha seats either. But they are not concerned with that. They have been told by the high command that you have failed to propagate these laws properly.”