Those who attacked the BJP workers during an event to celebrate former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday in Bathinda cannot be farmers, state party chief Ashwani Sharma Saturday said demanding those who indulged in hooliganism be booked as per law. BJP general secretary Dushyant Gautam was more direct in attack alleging that the “Punjab government, with the help of the local police, attacked BJP workers with iron rods due to which many suffered serious injuries”.
Accusing the Punjab Police of acting as a “Congress police”, Gautam, addressing media in Delhi, said, “Nobody was stopped, the tent at the event venue was uprooted and people gathered there were told to get out through the rear gate”.
The Punjab Police had Friday said that a group of farmers ransacked the venue of the event organised by the BJP. However, some farmers at the venue claimed “antisocial elements” and not peasants were behind the incident, something that state BJP chief too said as he reached Bathinda to inquire about the health of party leader Ravinder Gupta who received 22 stitches on his leg after being allegedly hit by an iron object.
“The ones who attacked our workers, cannot be farmers. All those who indulged in hooliganism in the name of farmers should be booked as per law. This is the first demand of BJP,” said Sharma. “Some people, in the name of the andolan, have started playing a game and disturbing peace and brotherhood of the state. The Amarinder government is responsible for this. Police should book the culprits failing which we will stage a dharna”.
The state BJP chief said if farmers can organise dharnas and protest rallies, “why can’t we organise our programmes in a democratic manner?”.
“A question mark is being raised over the role of police and administration. An inquiry should be conducted in the entire incident. There is a serious law and order problem in Punjab and (Chief Minister) Capt Amarinder is responsible for it,” he said.
In an apparent reference to the three central farm laws, Sharma said their exists a difference of opinion. “We are saying that a thing is right.. a few are saying that it is wrong…let people decide…let those differences be sorted over table. Punjab government has declared elections to municipal councils and corporations but they are creating an environment where goons are attacking our workers in the name of farmers. Why can’t we go to public places? Why can’t we go to villages? Government needs to create an environment of peace in the state”.
Sharma also warned that his party’s disciplined way of “dealing with the present situation is not our weakness”. “We can go to any level for our rights but in a democratic way. Dharnas are being organised outside the houses of 31 of our party leaders for nearly 90 days. People sitting outside, in their speeches, ask others to socially boycott us. What bad have we done? We are the custodians of communal harmony of this state. BJP has given many sacrifices to maintain peace in Punjab,” he said.
He claimed that when the farmers started their agitation, they had three demands including guaranteed minimum support price (MSP), government mandis should continue, and that farmers should be allowed to approach higher courts. “All these demands have been met. Country’s PM is telling them with folded hands, after bowing his head, that the government is ready to resolve their issues. Things can be sorted by discussion only. The PM does not have any ego issues…they (farmers’ unions) should sit for talks with an open mind.”
In Delhi, Dushyant Gautam claimed that Congress’ Ludhiana MP, Ravneet Singh Bittu, had said in a media statement that the ongoing farmers’ protest will not end ‘and to achieve our objective we can even pile up bodies, shed blood and go to any extent’.
“If there is any bloodshed or loss (of life) in the coming days, then the Congress and the left parties will be responsible,” Gautam said.
The entire Punjab BJP leadership had been called to Bathinda to meet SSP Bhupinder Singh Virk.
Late in the evening, party’s legal cell submitted an application to the SSP demanding registration of FIR against 42 people, including two identified as Bobby Jindal and Makhal Lal and 40 unidentified persons. Ashok Bharti from BJP’s legal cell said, “Bobby and Makhan are Congress workers. They instigated the protestors in the name of farmers. In videos, both can be seen instigating them by telling them to do the damage at the site. The duo even served food to them”.
The BJP also rejected the Bathinda SSP’s proposal to constitute a special investigation team (SIT) to probe into the hooliganism. The BJP demanded that the FIR against miscreants be registered by Saturday night or it will start an indefinite dharna in Bathinda, said Bharti.
Contacted, Congress leader Jaijeet Singh Johal confirmed that Bobby and Makhan are party workers but termed as baseless the allegations levelled against them by the BJP. “They have office near the market where BJP’s function was organised. Moreover, they keep organizing langar there. I don’t find any weight in this useless allegation by the BJP leaders,” said Johal, who is also brother-in-law of Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal.
Makhan had earlier unsuccessfully contested election for the post of municipal councillor. He and Bobby hold no designations in the Congress party.
Farmers protest outside BJP’s meet venue
Farmers held protests against the BJP and the central government at two locations visited by state party chief Ashwani Sharma in Bathinda on Saturday. Sharma, who was in district to meet party workers injured during ruckus Friday, first reached party leader Ravinder Gupta’s house in Virla Colony and later went to Melody hotel near Mittal mall where he held a meeting with party workers and later interacted with the media. Bathinda police had carried out barricading at both the places. Members of BKU (Ugrahan) and the Dodhi Union protested near Gupta’s house later set up a stage near the hotel.
Jagseer Singh, member of BKU (Ugrahan), said, “After calling us Khalistanis and Naxalites, they (the BJP) are now calling us goons. We will protest against them wherever they go. We will not allow them to enter our villages, come what may. We will show them black flags whenever we see them at any public place”.
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