Farmer Leader Rakesh Tikait to Visit Gujarat, Organisers Wary of Police Crackdown
Image Courtesy: PTI
Uncertainty looms over Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait’s two-day visit to Gujarat on April 4 and 5 as the local organisers are apprehensive that the farmer leader might be stopped from entering the state or stopped from meeting the farmers.
Tikait is supposed to be in Gujarat on a two-day programme that includes a temple visit in Ambaji and Unjha in North Gujarat, and ‘Kisan Samvad Sthal’ (farmers’ meet) in Palanpur on April 4 and in Bardoli on April 5. The BKU leader is also scheduled to visit Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad on April 5.
Tikait’s visit to Gujarat was announced in a press conference on March 26 this year in Ahmedabad called by various farmers’ rights organisation of the state. Noticeably, police had barged into the press conference and detained several farmer leaders on the ground that organisers did not have permission to hold the press meet.
Amongst the detained were Yudhvir Singh, national general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Gajendra Singh from Dharti Putra Trust, JK Patel from Jagatat Foundation and local farmers from Gujarat. Yudhvir Singh was still speaking to media when he was whisked away by the police.
“We have not sought any permission for the two day programme. We wanted Rakesh Tikait to hold a public meeting and speak to the farmers of Gujarat but now we are not organising a public meeting. We are wary after what happened in the press conference. We are still finalising on scale of the programme and his mode of arrival in Gujarat. We are hoping Tikait won’t be stopped before entering the state,” JK Patel from Jagattat Foundation, one of the organisers of the programme, told NewsClick.
“We can’t ignore the fact that in the past, the Gujarat government has house arrested or detained farmers and activists who have attempted to show solidarity or support with the ongoing protest against the farm laws in India,” added Patel.
Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP) Ashish Bhatia could not be reached for a comment on the matter despite several attempts.
Tikait, who is currently visiting Rajasthan, made a statement in media directed at the Gujarat government, saying, “We're going to Gujarat for two days, it's a very sensitive region, our farmers should be careful. Outsiders are not allowed there. We have to free the state's farmers, politicians, and the press.”
It should be noted that last year, the Gujarat government had reportedly come down heavily on farmers and activists who supported the anti-farm law protest by farmers, particularly in North India. In a press conference in December last year, DGP Ashish Bhatia had announced that any social media post about any turmoil or protest will lead to arrest. The state government had also implemented Section 144 across the state and barred any kind of protest.
Following which Sailesh Parmar, a resident of Vadodara, was arrested for writing a post on Facebook in support of the ongoing farmers’ protest at the borders of Delhi. He was booked under Section 153B of the Indian Penal Code among other sections for “incendiary posts”.
Subsequently, several farmers and farmer leaders across Gujarat, who had extended support to the ongoing protests, were put under house arrest.
Local farmer leaders including Palbhai Ambaliya, Jayesh Patel and Yakub Guraji, along with other farmers’ rights activists, had formed an organisation named Gujarat Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, an umbrella body of 23 farmers’ rights organisations. The organisation had called a farmers’ gathering on December 6 last year to mobilise and extend support to the Bharat Bandh called by the protesting farmers but were denied permission.
Permission was also denied for a ‘khedut sansad’ on December 11 that was reportedly expected to mobilise about 2,000 farmers. Following which, police began detaining leaders and activists across the state from the evening of December 10.
In response, the farmers of the state had to reportedly disguise themselves to avoid police and leave state individually to join the protest at Tikri border of the national capital.
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