Day after, farm unions say Nihangs addressed farmers from Singhu stage

Sources within the SKM and present at the protest site revealed that Nihangs often used to collect black gram for their horses from the farmers’ langar site.

At the Singhu border protest site. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) may have distanced itself from the Nihangs who on Friday allegedly lynched a man at the farm protest venue at Kundli near the Delhi-Haryana border, but it has now come to fore that members of the martial Sikh order addressed the farmers several times from the stage at Singhu.

The SKM, an umbrella body farm unions, including 32 from Punjab, spearheading the agitation against the farm laws at the Delhi border for the past nearly 11 months, on Friday had claimed that the lynching of the man was “an internal matter of the Nihang Sikhs” and had nothing to do with the farmers’ movement, which is not a religious one. The farmers’ movement is for the rights of farmers and against the three farm laws, the SKM had asserted.

Rajinder Singh Deepsinghwala, the general secretary of Kirti Kisan Union, Saturday urged the farm unions to introspect. “Yes, we cannot deny the fact that they (Nihang Sikhs) used to come on Singhu stage. It was not a regular feature, but yes, they did that 2-3 times. There were four incidents of violence by them in the past over petty issues and our members regularly requested them to leave the protest site. However, we also accept the fact that we too became lenient over the issue. It is high time we did some introspection over the issue as religion has nothing to do with farmers’ movement,” said Rajinder Singh.

Sources within the SKM and present at the protest site revealed that Nihangs often used to collect black gram for their horses from the farmers’ langar site. It was also learnt that the SKM had even paid off electricity bill amounting to nearly Rs 70,000 of some Haryana residents whose power connection was used by the Nihangs for day to day works, including running motors to draw water and other daily chores.

Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU (Dakaunda) said that they wanted the Nihangs to be shifted elsewhere from near the protest site. “But the issue was not raised in a strong manner despite the fact that many violent incidents had taken place in the past as well. It is surprising that till now no FIR has been registered over sacrilege charge, the alleged reason behind the cold-blooded murder. I don’t deny that a few of them used to come on (SKM) stage, but it never happened in my presence,” said Jagmohan Singh.

It may be mentioned that Ruldu Singh, president of Punjab Kisan Union (PKU), had a difference of opinion with Nihangs over his comments about Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in July this year. The Nihangs staged a protest near Singhu stage and stated that they will not allow Ruldu to speak from there. At that time, the SKM had suspended Ruldu for 15 days. Ruldu’s supporters were attacked by unidentified persons on July 28 in the tent near Bahadurgarh at Tikri border. The assailants were allegedly looking for Ruldu.

Contacted, the PKU president, refused to talk about controversy. “It (farmers’ agitation) is a jan aandolan and hence, we cannot stop people from attending the dharna. But, we need to introspect about this incident and take steps accordingly,” he said.

“We cannot run away by saying that SKM has nothing to do with Nihangs. We kept avoiding it thinking that it was a religious issue. However, we could have acted in a stern manner in the past when violent incidents had started. Staying quiet is also a form of support only,” said a farm union representative requesting anonymity.

Rajinder Singh added that the violent incident “has brought a bad name to the morcha and has caused a dent. “But it is a temporary one. We are sure that it will be washed away soon,” said Rajinder Singh, adding that Lakhimpur Kheri incident gave a “bad name to the BJP” and “now this incident has happened”, so “one cannot rule our conspiracy”.

Jagmohan Singh said,”The motive behind the incident needs to be found out. They have tried to cause harm to the morcha”.

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