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Opinion | Farmer leaders now stand completely discredited

Sensing the nation's mood, farmer leaders have started apologizing to the people for vandalizing the historic Red Fort, attacking policemen with tractors and swords and for damaging public properties.

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Published on: January 28, 2021 12:51 IST
Opinion | Farmer leaders now stand completely discredited
Image Source : INDIA TV

Opinion | Farmer leaders now stand completely discredited

Sensing the nation's mood, farmer leaders have started apologizing to the people for vandalizing the historic Red Fort, attacking policemen with tractors and swords and for damaging public properties.  They have decided to sit on fast on Gandhiji's martyrdom day as a mark of penance.

These farm leaders are saying that they are extremely sad over what happened on Republic Day but are unwilling to accept their mistakes. Farm leaders like Balbir Singh Rajewal and Gurnam Singh Chaduni alleged that the mayhem was caused by three “government agents”, namely Sarwan Singh Pandher, Satnam Singh Pannu and Deep Sidhu. They also alleged that it was part of a conspiracy hatched by the government to bring the agitation to disrepute. The farmer leaders have said that their agitation will continue.

In my prime time show 'Aaj Ki Baat' on Wednesday night, we exposed how some of the farmer leaders have now gone into hiding and some of them are telling lies. We exposed how Rakesh Tikait, Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Yogendra Yadav and Balbir Singh Rajewal, who had promised a peaceful tractor march, are now shifting the blame on police. These leaders speak in different tones when they speak to the media, to the police and to their supporters.

We showed how Rajewal first told the media that it was the police which changed the routes at the last moment, put up barricades on agreed routes and allowed protesters to reach Red Fort. Rajewal said,"for four hours there was no police officer at the Red Fort, how was this possible, that too on Republic Day when most of the policemen deserted their post? It was the police which gave a free hand to those people who hoisted the flag".

And soon after an hour, the same Rajewal was admitting on camera that "some of the leaders in the march gave provocative speeches and created a scene as if they were going to attack Red Fort and Delhi. Naturally, the young among the protesters were hot-headed, they lost their cool and the speeches acted like pouring ghee on fire".

The same Rajewal on Tuesday night was telling his supporters that there were three "government agents", Pandher, Pannu and Deep Sidhu, who “instigated violence and we must not allow them to come here among us".  Balbir Singh Rajewal also said, "I am not afraid of death, I am not afraid of these government agents, but tell our people in Punjab to be on guard against Pandher, Pannu and Deep Sidhu, they are anti-socials, if you give them a rope, they will mislead people.”

For the last two months, I have been consistently pointing out that anti-social elements and political activists have infiltrated the farmers' agitation. I have  named the mischief mongers who were abusing the Prime Minister from the dharna spot. But farmer leaders did not bother. I told them that  the protest can go out of hand as there was no single leader who was leading this farmers' agitation. The protesters do not have a single unified leadership. Those claiming to be national farm leaders are not even listened to by the protesters. On Tuesday and Wednesday, most of these farm leaders were claiming that their tractor march was peaceful, and those who carried out mayhem at ITO and Red Fort were not part of their group.

In my show, we showed another farm leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni who had threatened two days ago that his men would break police barricades if they were stopped. The same Chaduni now says that "we had already told police that the farmers were not happy with the routes and they could revolt, but police did not listen to us and this led to violence." Rakesh Tikait had also asked his supporters to come with 'jhanda' and 'danda.’

The rift among the farmer leaders has led to withdrawal of two UP farmer outfits, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Bhanu group) and Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan from the agitation. Their supporters left the dharna site at Chilla border in north-eastern Delhi on Wednesday evening and the Delhi-Noida road was cleared. The head of the BKU (Bhanu group) Thakur Bhanu Pratap Singh said: "We had come to  Chilla border for a resolution of farmers’ problems. We had not come to indulge in any kind of indecency at the Red Fort or anywhere in the country. Whatever happened on Tuesday is shameful for the entire nation. Those who unfurled another flag at the Red Fort, I object to it and condemn it. Those who attacked the police, I object to it and condemn it.”

The farmer leaders heading the agitation now stand completely exposed. Today these leaders are blaming men like Pandher and Pannu, but when these two were joining them to attend meetings at Vigyan Bhavan, nobody said that they were rioters. On Monday night, on the eve of Republic Day, the dais of farmer leaders at Singhu border was forcibly occupied by some fringe elements, who alleged that the farm leaders have “been bought over by the government, and we will march on our tractors  towards Red Fort to hoist our flag.”

The farm leaders listened to all this throughout the night, slept under blankets inside their tents, but did not inform the police about the latest development. The next morning, at 8 am, four hours before the scheduled time, when the protesters took out their tractors, broke the barricades and sped on their way to Delhi, there were not a single farm leader like Rakesh Tikait and Darshan Pal available to stop them.

The farmer leaders have now lost all respect and nobody is going to take them at their word. Leaders like Pannu and Pandher have become accomplices in the act of violence. They broke their promises given to the police, conspired with hoodlums and were instrumental in the acts of mayhem.

And now, about the perpetrators of Republic Day mayhem.

Deep Sidhu was the mastermind of the act of sacrilege at Red Fort. A native of Punjab’s Muktsar district, a small time Punjabi movie actor, Sidhu worked for BJP MP Sunny Deol during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. There are pictures of Deep Sidhu with top BJP leaders, taken during that period. In December last year, Sunny Deol issued a statement saying that neither he nor his family has now any relation with him. Sidhu joined the farmers’ agitation. He was seen sitting with farmer leaders in most of their meetings, and even addressed the gatherings. At that time, Sidhu was acceptable to them, but did the farm leaders had any inkling about Sidhu’s motives?

Satnam Singh Pannu set up his Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee in 2007 in Punjab’s Majha area, with his base in Amritsar, and his supporters spread in seven to eight districts. Sarwan Singh Pandher is the public face of this outfit. Pandher and Pannu had clearly said two days before Republic Day that they would take their tractors to Ring Road. The same Pandher is now shifting the blame to Deep Sidhu, saying that he is “a BJP agent”.

Delhi Police Commissioner S N Shrivastav has said that the provocative speeches were made at farmers’ dharna sites on January 25 itself and the farmer leaders kept the hoodlums in front. He alleged that farmers led by Pannu and Darshan Pal reached Mukarba Chowk by 7 am, instead of the 12 noon schedule. Pannu gave a provocative speech and then the protesters deviated from their original route.

India TV reporters met policemen and women undergoing treatment in hospitals. They recounted how the protesters attacked them with sticks, iron rods, swords and speeding tractors. The injured police personnel said, how they exercised utmost restraint because of orders from the top, not to resort to firing. They said, the rioters had come with the intent of attacking police personnel only. Some of the injured policemen said, they were on the verge of death. Constable Sandeep lies with a fractured hand as he narrated, how the rioters, some of them seemed to be on drugs, attacked him with swords. Women police constable Rekha, with injuries on her chest, and another female constable Ritu, described the ordeal that they went through.

The SHO of Wazirabad P C Yadav narrated how he was attacked on his helmet with a sword, while he was rescuing his injured staff. His men had been attacked with swords, bamboo sticks and iron rods. Yadav described how he fell unconscious when his helmet was cut into two by the sword.

Questions are being raised why police did not fire when they were being attacked, the national flag was being dishonoured and the Red Fort was being desecrated. The answer is: Delhi Police officials knew that the farmers were waiting for the police to open fire, so that they could scream in front of the whole word that they have been attacked. Some political parties wanted rivers of blood to flow. There was conspiracy for recreating the Jallianwala Bagh incident in which British police had fired on unarmed people in Amritsar during the freedom movement. The aim was to present Narendra Modi as the infamous British General Dyer.

The government understood the motive and intent of the conspirators and this was the reason why orders were given to police not to fire at the protesters, at any cost. The same leaders who are today questioning why police did not take preventive action, would have hollered if the police had fired on the protesters in Red Fort. They would have then asked why blood of ‘innocent’ people were allowed to flow. These same leaders would have again labelled Narendra Modi as ‘maut ke saudagar’ (merchant of death).  Every Indian should salute the brave men and women of Delhi Police, who withstood attacks and injuries, but did not resort to firing.

Just imagine. How these policemen and women saved their lives when confronted with murderous mobs who wanted to kill them. At the Red Fort, scores of policemen fell into 15 feet deep ditch while trying to save their lives. Many had injuries on their hands and feet.

The entry to the historic Red Fort presented a devastating scene. Ticket counters, barricades, audio tour room, security hold area, checking kiosk, scanners at the entry gates were vandalized and CCTV cameras were smashed by the rioters. Culture and Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel inspected the Red Fort premises, and case of dacoity was also filed, because the rioters had looted some cash kept at the counters.

We have come to a point where no amount of excuses being given by farm leaders will suffice. Even if one accepts Chaduni’s words that it was Deep Sidhu who led the protesters while committing sacrilege at the Red Fort, my question is: who were the people who were using swords during the violence in Nangloi? Who were the people who attacked policemen with iron rods at ITO, and used speeding tractors to crush policemen? Who were the people who smashed DTC buses with tractors? Were they all government agents? Was it the Delhi Police which brought thousands of protesters armed with rods and sticks?

The allegations being made by farmer leaders are mostly brazen lies. It makes one sad. Farmer leaders like Rakesh Tikait, Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Darshan Pal and Shiv Kumar Singh Kakka, may continue to live in their world of make-believe that the farmers will not realize the truth and people will continue to trust them, but this is not going to happen anymore.

The farmer leaders are fast losing friends, colleagues and sympathizers. These leaders could have earned the nation's praise if they had alerted police on Monday night about the conspirators' plan to enter Red Fort, but they lost the opportunity. They now stand discredited, completely.

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