With several political parties and singers and actors calling for and organising protests against the three farm Bills, farmer unions in Punjab are not happy with leaders terming them “gatherings of misguided youth” who were more interested in hooliganism than protests.
There are 31 farmer and farm labour unions in Punjab owing allegiance to different ideologies. Some unions are also close to the Shiromani Akali Dal Badal, the Congress party and the Aam Aadmi Party but mostly follow an ideology that is inspired from the Left parties. These unions often come on a common platform or at least coordinate with each other on big issues by keeping all political parties at distance.
However, they were taken by surprise with a massive gathering on the Shambhu border with Haryana on the day of Punjab Bandh on September 25. It was the biggest gathering in Punjab in response to the bandh call given by farmer unions. Surprisingly, no farmer union was part of that protest.
The call for this gathering was given on social media by Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu and politician and activist Lakha Sidana among others. Student leader Kanupriya also attended the gathering, which saw several singers and actors in attendance. Youth from all parts of Malwa and Puadh regions to join this protest.
Besides Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala also managed a big crowd at Mansa.
Moosewala launched his own owutfit ‘Nujwan Kisan Ekta’ after Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) turned down his request to attend its protest on farm bill.
“We had approached Ugrahan group to join the protest. But they said that my presence can distract their assembly. I understand their problem. So I have decided to protest separately. I have nothing against farmer unions,” said Moosewala during a Facebook live session.
Despite heavy attendance of youth, both protests remained peaceful.
Punjab Kisan Union president Rulda Singh, however, is not happy with these gatherings. In a video message on social media, he said they were gatherings of misguided youth who were more interested in hooliganism that protest.
“Our leaders have 40 years of experience. Had youth come to the protests organised by farm unions, they could have taken lessons from our experience. But they all went to Sidhu Moosewala and at the Shambhu border,” said Ruldu Singh.
In a video being widely shared on social media, it also seen that Punjabi singers Harbhajan Mann and others were left red faced during a protest rally by Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) at Nabha where they had gone to extend support to the farmers’ protest. The organizers of the protest, however, were not happy with their presence as they felt they will distract the gathering.
“These gatherings (of youth) will do no good to the farmers’ agenda. These protests might be a design to distract the focus from the real issues. Farmer unions have been fighting on the farmers’ issue alone for many years. We have set the agenda. If anybody wants to support farmers, they can join our protest,” said a leader of Bharti Kisan Union, not wanting to be named.
However, Punjabi social media is divided over the issue of who should lead the farm protests. Farmer unions have been getting support mostly from the Left cadre on the social media while others are many who are questioning the agenda of the farm outfits.
Rulda Singh’s video criticizing protestors at Shambhu border those with Sidhu Moosewala is also getting bitter reactions.
Lakha Sidhana, one of main organisers of protest at Shambu border, said, “We have no problem with the farmer unions. But they should come up with clear agenda against the Union government. There should be clarity that these Bills are not only attack on MSP but also an attack on Punjab. Farmer unions are divided and it is the reason that there are more than 30 unions. They all should come on common platform. If they can’t unite themselves then how can they expect youth to come under their umbrella. We may have differences with farmers’ unions, but it is not time to discuss these differences. It is time to put a united fight.”
Associated with the Sikh Vichar Manch, writer Ajaypal Brar, who attended the protest at Shambu border, said, “Often we take youth for granted. But sometimes youth understand the issue better than the others. The issue of farm Bill is just not only of employment and profession of farming. There is also issue of identity associated with these protests. But farmer unions wants to remain limited to MSP only. They are more into protest than setting agenda. Question is do farmer unions understand the real issue behind issue of protest against farm Bills ?”
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