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At Singhu border, faultlines deepen but Nihangs say will stay put

Many protesters said the murder has cast a shadow on the movement, given that farm leaders have always sought to project it as not bound by a single religion.

The crowd at the protest had thinned over the last few weeks. (Express Photo by Amit Mehra)

Faultlines have deepened at the Singhu protest site in the aftermath of a 35-year-old man being brutally lynched, allegedly by a group of Nihang Sikhs, on Thursday night. Even though the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), which has been spearheading the protest ever since farmers first showed up at the border site last November, has sought to distance itself from the Nihangs, with some farm leaders suggesting they should leave, those from the Sikh warriors group say they will stay where they are.

On Saturday, a group of farmers from Haryana sat huddled on chairs and charpais near their tent, set up a few metres from the barricade where the victim’s body was strung up.

“We have nothing to do with the Nihangs. We are here for the farmer movement and that will continue. Our paths have not crossed with them. Technically they are not farmers… but everyone has been welcome here because at the end of the day..,” said Satyawan Singh, who came to Singhu last year on famer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni’s call.

Many protesters said the murder has cast a shadow on the movement, given that farm leaders have always sought to project it as not bound by a single religion.

The SKM was quick to point out that it has no association with the Nihangs or the victim, and said: “We demand that the culprits be punished according to law…”

But the Nihangs seem to be in no mood to back down. On Saturday, they had gathered in front of the makeshift gurudwara for the evening Ardas — not far from the place where the victim was killed.

Their horses and tents are still located right next to security establishments on the Delhi border.

“We respect the Samyukt Kisan Morcha even if they say they have nothing to do with us. We are all fighting in the same battle against the government. This is a bigger fight, and we will protect the interests of farmers at all costs,” said Balvinder Singh, a Nihang leader.

The crowd at the protest had thinned over the last few weeks, but the area appeared considerably more deserted in the last 48 hours.

Many attributed this to the farming season in Punjab and Haryana, and said they expect a stream of protesters to return in the coming month.

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