Sikh religious leader and environmentalist Baba Sewa Singh on Friday announced that he will be returning his Padma Shri award in support of farmers’ protest. The day also saw popular singer-actor Harbhajan Mann declaring that he will not be accepting ‘Shiromani Gayak’ award announced by Punjab’s Languages Department.
Another author, Harmanjeet Singh, who won Yuva Sahitya Akademi Award (Punjabi) in 2017 for his book ‘Rani Tatt’, has also decided to return his award to express solidarity with farmers.
Baba Sewa Singh, who is head of Kar Sewa Sect, Khadoor Sahib, said: “Farmers are sitting on dharna in cold nights under the sky. In this situation, I have decided to return Padma Shri award conferred to me in 2009 for my contribution to environment. Farmers are fighting for their existence. It doesn’t make any sense to remain recipient of a national award when citizens are facing inhuman treatment.”
Harbhajan Mann wrote on his Facebook wall, “I am thankful to the advisory board of Languages Department for picking me for this award of `Shiromani Gayak’ as I had not even applied on my behalf for any award. However, I have decided not to accept this award as I myself was born in a farmer’s family and my singing is loved by farmers. It is because of them that I was able to win this award. Today, when farmers of the whole country, including Punjab, are on the roads, crying for justice, I won’t look good receiving the Shiromani award.”
A few days back, Mann had also released a song titled ‘Haq’, which is based on the farmers’ Delhi Chalo march. “Nako nak hoya jo hankar tenu ni, le sidhi paon aaye haan vangar tenu ni.. dak le je tetho hunda dak Diliye.. murhde ni laye bina haq diliye (Delhi you are full of arrogance and we have come to challenge you. Delhi, you can put all of us wherever you want, but we will not go back without taking our rights),” goes the song released by Mann.
On Thursday, in support of farmers’ agitation, three Sahitya Akademi Award winners from Punjab — renowned poet Mohanjit, short-story writer Jaswinder and playwright Swarajbir had decided to return their Sahitya Akademi Awards.
Dr Sukhdev Singh Sirsa, general secretary of the Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha, confirmed the development.
Dr Sirsa, who is associated with the farmers’ struggle right from the beginning, said, “Punjabi Lekhak Sabha and All India Progressive Writers Organisation have been associated with farmers since the beginning of their struggle against farm acts. We do understand the pain of farmers and feel that their demands were not heard well in time despite the fact that they had been protesting on roads since mid- September.”
Sirsa has addressed farmers at many dharnas since October in Punjab.
Dr Mohanjit, is a retired professor of Punjabi who has penned 10 poetry books. His poetry in Punjabi on Konark temples was appreciated a lot. He got the Sahitya Akademi award in 2017. Dr Swarajbir, a playwright, started his professional life as a doctor initially and later served as an IPS officer. These days, he is working as editor of a Punjabi newspaper. Author Dr Jaswinder Singh is a retired professor of Punjabi.
At Delhi borders, all farmer unions Friday hailed decision by award winners to return their awards.
Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of BKU (Ugrahan), said, “These writers, poets have stood by us and they understand struggles of farming. We appreciate their decision in support of people’s movement.”
Meanwhile, the SGPC has announced compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to seven families, whose members have lost their lives during the ongoing farmer protest at Delhi.
SGPC has also decided hold special prayers for the protesting farmers at all the historical gurdwaras on December 7 from 8 am to 9 am.
This decision was taken during the first meeting of SGPC interim committee meeting held at the Sikh body’s headquarters on Friday.
SGPC president Jagir Kaur said, “We will pay compensation of Rs one lakh to all the seven families, who lost their beloved ones during farmer protests. We extend full support to the farmer protest and demands. We will also provide makeshift toilets for the women taking part in protest at Delhi.”
She added, “We will pray to almighty for the success of the farmers in historical gurdwaras on December 7. I request all Sikhs to pray for farmers. SGPC also supports decision of Parkash Singh Badal to return his (Padma) award.”
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