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Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Away from Morcha, union accused of ‘plotting’ with govt part of stir since Sept

Formed in 2017, with a substantial presence in both the Majha and Malwa regions of Punjab, the KMSC has in fact been at the forefront of the protests against the three new farm Bills -- while refusing, at every step, to toe the Morcha's line.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
Updated: January 28, 2021 10:22:56 am
Police issue notices to farm leaders to join probe, they refuseThe Delhi Police Crime Branch is learnt to have approached several farm leaders over the phone asking them to join the investigation. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella organisation of farmer unions protesting against the farm laws on Delhi borders, has accused the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) of being part of a government conspiracy to discredit the movement. At the same time, the Delhi Police has booked KMSC founder-president Satnam Singh Pannu, along with farm leaders of the Morcha, under sections of rioting, criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder and robbery.

Formed in 2017, with a substantial presence in both the Majha and Malwa regions of Punjab, the KMSC has in fact been at the forefront of the protests against the three new farm Bills — while refusing, at every step, to toe the Morcha’s line.

On Tuesday, the KMSC pressed ahead with its demand to take out a tractor parade on Outer Ring Road, which was not the route agreed upon by the Morcha leaders with the Delhi Police. Many among their supporters then broke away and were part of the protesters who entered the Red Fort.

Pannu said they followed the Morcha’s calls “most of the time” at Delhi borders, except on following the route decided by the Delhi Police for the January 26 parade. “The people had earlier been told about the Outer Ring Road route and, hence, wanted to go on that road. We listened to public sentiment. If any union has spoken against us, we are ready to debate with them and answer each and every thing. We are protesting for a cause and all allegations against us are baseless. We will talk with all the union leaders and keep coordinating with the Morcha. I am not going to say anything against them,” Pannu said.

The KMSC has its own stage at the Singhu-Kundli border protest site, separate from the Morcha’s. The Morcha’s 32 farmer unions are protesting both at Singhu and Tikri borders, while the BKU (Ugrahan) has a presence at the Tikri border near Bahadurgarh, Haryana. The KMSC and BKU (Ugrahan) have often coordinated for joint press conferences at the protest sites, and addressed farmers from each other’s stages.

Even in Punjab, the KMSC had been protesting against the Bills on its own. In September, it issued a call to block bridges, going on to halt the Harrike bridge connecting Majha and Malwa, the Beas bridge on the Amritsar-Delhi highway and the Hargobindpur bridge in Gurdaspur for nearly a fortnight. The other farm unions did not join this protest, and when they in turn called three ‘Lalkar’ rallies, the KMSC stayed away.

Later, the KMSC held its own rail roko, separate from the other farm unions, in September-October. Its Amritsar-Ferozepur blockade on several rail tracks starting September 24 was supported by the BKU (Ugrahan) for two days. When Chief Minister Amarinder Singh held meetings with farm unions in October and November, appealing to them to lift the rail roko, the KMSC did not join.

In fact, the KMSC continued its rail roko at the Jandiala Guru Railway Station in Amritsar long after the Morcha and BKU (Ugrahan) ended theirs, saying they would allow only freight trains but not passenger trains till the farm laws were repealed. The KMSC dharna near the parking area of the railway station, in fact, is still on, with Pannu threatening to return to the tracks if any other train besides freight is allowed. As a result, a majority of the passenger trains still haven’t resumed in Punjab.

When the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee gave a Delhi Chalo call on November 26-27, the KMSC again stayed away. Instead, it started from Punjab in a convoy of 1,500 vehicles on December 11, and started its dharna at Singhu-Kundli two days later.

The KMSC also stayed away from the initial rounds of talks of farmer unions with the Centre, on October 13 and November 13, as well as the first five meetings after the protests began at Delhi borders, saying these would not yield any results. It has been present though at the last six meetings with the Union ministers.

KMSC general secretary Sarwar Pandher said that in blaming them for the Red Fort incident, BKU (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal is hurting the movement. “We always corrected him at meetings and not in public,” Pandher said, adding that the KMSC would still not attack him.

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