Rajat Sharma

How Punjab farmer agitation was hijacked by their Left-leaning leaders

akbIn my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Friday night, we showed how a handful of farmer leaders, with Leftist and anti-Modi leanings, have hijacked the farmers’ agitation in Delhi. These are the leaders who want a bitter confrontation with the Centre and are trying to stall negotiations at each and every step. Even on Friday, the Union Agriculture Minister said that the government was ready for talks, but the farmer leaders should come forward and tell the provisions of farm laws which they want to be amended. But the handful of farmer leaders decided not to respond and intensified the agitation. They have announced that they would block roads and railway tracks in the National Capital region and bring normal life to a standstill.

Who are these farmer leaders who are stalling talks? Who are the ones who have clear leanings towards Naxalites? Who, among them, had glorified the killers of former PM Indira Gandhi? The nation must know about these farmer leaders.

The first among them is Satnam Singh Pannu, president of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, set up in 2007, claiming to have more than 5,000 members with a sizeable presence in taran taran, Gurdaspur, Ferozepur and Amritsar.

The second is Darshan Pal Singh, head of Krantikari Kisan Morcha. He is the leader who, on Thursday, supported the holding of placards demanding release of anti-national elements like Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid and Elgar Parishad activists, presently in jail. This union owes allegiance to CPI-M, has more than 700 members and has a presence in Bathinda, Sangrur, Patiala, Ferozepur and Faridkot.

The third is Joginder Singh Ugrahan, who set up the Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan), and has 46,000 followers on Facebook. His union has a good presence in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Bathinda, Barnala and Ludhiana. This union managed to bring 34 pro-Left farmer outfits in Punjab on a single platform.

The fourth is Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan). Earlier, he used to teach science to students and is now a farmer leader. He is said to be the brain behind the farmers’ agitation in Punjab. He was the president of his college union, had leanings towards Maoists, and was once seriously injured while carrying out ‘rail roko’ agitation.

The fifth leader is Surjit Singh Phool, state president of BKU(Krantikari). Set up in 2004, this outfit has leanings towards CPI(M) and has more than 1,000 members. It has a sizeable presence in Bathinda, Sangrur, Ferozepur, Faridkot, Fazilka, Moga and Patiala. He was once arrested by Punjab Police for his pro-Maoist activities.

Another leader is Sarwan Singh Pandher, who was earlier zonal president and now executive vice-president of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee. There is Buta Singh Burj Gill, president of BKU Dakunda, and has pro-CPI(M) leanings. He has been working among farmers since 1984 and set up a political party in 2004. His union works in tandem with BKU (Lakhowal).

Ajmer Singh Lakhowal heads BKU (Lakhowal) set up in 1992. He came into controversy, when in 1994, he praised Indira Gandhi’s killers, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh. He was arrested in 1999 in connection with tractor purchase scam. He is close to Shiromani Akali Dal, and has more than 7,000 followers in Amritsar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Faridkot, Gurdaspur, Hoshairpur, Ludhiana, Mansa, Patiala, Ropar and Sangrur. He has visited Canada several times, where his son stays. He was elected chairman of Punjab Mandi Board with the help of Akali Dal.

There is another leader Jagmohan Singh, who used to work in the Co-operative department of Punjab government. He was earlier in BKU (Ekta) and is presently the general secretary of BKU Dakunda. Nirbhay Singh Dhudike, who heads the Kirti Kisan Union, and has close links with CPI(ML). His union is active in Amritsar, Pathankot, Jullundur and Sangrur. His union has more than 5,500 members and he was once sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for setting fire to a bus in Punjab. Police had once raided his home in connection with Maoist activities, but he managed to escape.

Kamalpreet Singh Pannu is the Punjab unit president of Kisan Sangharsh Committee, set up in 2000. It has more than 1,500 followers and has leanings towards CPI(M). It has a presence in Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Taran Taran and Gurdaspur. There is another leader Satnam Singh Ajnala, belonging to Revolutionary Marxist Party of India. He runs the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha in Bhatinda, Ropar, Sangrur and Taran Taran. He is said to be close to that party’s chief Mangat Ram.

Baldev Singh Nihalgarh runs the CPI farmers’ wing Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha and has supporters in Bhatinda, Moga, Mansa and Patiala. Another important farmer leader is Ruldu Singh Mansa who runs the pro-CPI Punjab Kisan Union, which has 2,500 members in Ludhiana, Mansa and Muktsar. Hannan Mollah, a CPI(M) leader, heads the All India Kisan Sabha. He was a CPI(M) MP from West Bengal, who won the Lok Sabha elections eight times. Presently, he is a senior leader of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee.

In a nutshell, most of the farmer leaders from Punjab owe their allegiance to Left Parties, both moderate and extremist. There was a period in Punjab politics, when Communist leaders, including Harkishen Singh Surjit, used to hold sway over farmers’ outfits. However, presently, most of these farmer leaders have less to do with the interest of farmers and follow the political agenda of opposing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s farm policies. At one point of time, these leftist farmer leaders used to condemn middlemen (adhatiyas) as bloodsuckers of farmers, but now they have included a large number of adhatiyas in their group to spearhead the farmers’ agitation.

When the new farm laws were enacted by Parliament, these Left leaders grabbed the chance to incite and instigate illiterate farmers and took control of the agitation. These leaders torpedoed every attempt by the government to establish channels of communication with the farmers. They succeeded in changing the direction of the farmers’ agitation, and on Thursday, they came out in the open and made farmers chant slogans for release of anti-nation elements and pro-Naxalite leaders. On Friday, when the farmers came to know about the antecedents of ‘Tukde Tukde’ gang activists like Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, and pro-Naxalite intellectuals like Varvara Rao and Gautam Navlakha, they threw away the posters, placards and banners.

But the most worrying aspect is that these anti-national elements and their supporters are still there within the ranks of farmers and are working in an organized manner. These elements have leanings towards Khalistani and Kashmiri separatists and Maoists who are engaged in insurrection. Intelligence agencies have cautioned that these elements may create unrest and violence taking advantage of the farmers’ agitation.

The very idea of a violent confrontation between the Centre and farmers is alarming, to say the least. God forbid, such a situation should not arise under any circumstance. The agitating farmers will have to guard themselves (1) against the machinations of anti-national forces, (2) against political elements who are trying to gain advantage, and (3) against the Covid-19 pandemic which take a toll of their lives, if the agitation continues for long. The sooner saner counsel prevails among them, the better.

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