Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal were detained by police at separate spots while trying to lead party’s ‘kisan march’ to the Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh to submit a memorandum against Centre’s agri Acts to Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore. Both leaders were later released, and had to turn back from the Punjab-Chandigarh border without submitting the memorandum.
Before the Badal couple was detained, Chandigarh Police also cane-charged protestors led by Harsimrat at the Chandigarh-Zirakpur border and by Sukhbir at the Mullanpur border late in the evening. Water cannons were also unleashed in Mullanpur, before the duo were detained. In a late night statement, former CM Parkash Singh Badal condemned the “repressive use of force against peaceful Akali workers”.
Calling the three agriculture Acts as “black laws (kaale kanoon)”, SAD leadership had Thursday started ‘kisan marches’ from three Takhts of Sikhs in Punjab.
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SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal led the march from Akal Takht, Amritsar, while his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal led one from Takht Damdama Sahib in Talwandi Sabo. Senior Akali leader and former Lok Sabha MP from Anandpur Sahib, Prem Singh Chandumajra, led the march from Takht Keshgarh Sahib.
“Jehre kanoon Punjab de ulat, asin us sarkaar de ulat (We are against the government which has passed anti-Punjab legislations),” Harsimrat said in an address to supporters on Chandigarh border where the march led by her was stopped by the Chandigarh Police and the Rapid Action Force. The entry points here had been barricaded to stop the march.
SAD leader Charanjit Singh Brar said that UT administration was “under the control of Centre” and its “highhandedness” against people protesting against agriculture Acts will “cost the Centre government dearly”.
After the march was stopped at the border, Harsmirat who led the sit-in before police took her away said, “We will take the agitation to Delhi.”
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Invoking Sikh religious verses of tenth Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh – “(Deh Shiva Var Mohe Ehe) Shubh Karman te Kab-hun na tarun, nishchay kar apni jeet karun (Oh Lord grant me this boon, that I may never stray from doing good deeds)” and “Sawa lakh se ek laraun tabhi Gobind Singh naam kahaun (I make one Sikh fight against a lakh and 25,000 people and that is why I am called Gobind Singh)”, Harsimrat said the agitation would continue till the “black laws” were revoked.
She said that “following on the footsteps of protests by farmers of Punjab“, farmers from across the nation should get together to “get their rights”.
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Before the police lathicharge, Harsimrat even invoked her father-in-law and five time Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal saying that he had “spent his whole life for ensuring peace in the state”, and “SAD’s peaceful march” should be allowed to proceed “to submit the memorandum to the Governor”.
She added, “Kaale kanoon vaapis lite jaan (The black laws should be revoked. These laws equally hit farmers, arhtiyas, shopkeepers, traders and farm labourers.”.
At the Mullanpur border, Sukhbir started a sit-in after the march led by him was stopped. Amid slogans of “Iko naara, kisan pyara”, he said that SAD and farmers were synonymous.
The SAD chief said: “In the Cabinet, we tried to make them understand that farmers don’t want these. Modi Sahib ne koyee parvaah nahi keeti and kanoon leaande (Modi did not care and brought in the legislations).”
Sukhbir said SAD was a BJP ally for last “25 to 30 years” but this was “a fight of principles”.
He also hit out at CM Amarinder Singh and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for enacting laws “to end APMC Act”.
Taking a swipe at CM, he said that Amarinder had even “termed opening of (Kartarpur) Corridor as an ISI plan”. His jibe was over a statement by the Punjab CM that ISI can take advantage of the present situation.
As Sukhbir said this there were slogans of “(DGP) Dinkar Gupta murdabad.”
The SAD chief rued how Akali activists were “not allowed to enter state’s own capital”.
As the day ended, Akali patriarch Parkash Singh Badal issued a strongly worded statement condemning the “repressive use of violent force let loose on peaceful Akali workers, farmers and SAD leaders by the Chandigarh Police”.
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“The brutal lathi-charge on peaceful protesting Akali workers made this a painful and dark day for democracy in the country’s history,” he said in the statement.
The former CM added: “If those in power think that this would break the spirit of the peaceful Akali workers, then that means they are sadly mistaken and have learnt nothing from history. Punjabis have fought the worst of form of repression during the Emergency and in 1984. It is sad that some of those who perpetrated violence against peaceful protesters tonight are people for whom we had braved the repression of Indira Gandhi. It is surprising and most unfortunate to see how soon people forget when they go on the other side of the fence.”
Badal senior said that he saw “nothing wrong in the Governor meeting the leaders of the protesters to receive a memorandum of the demands of the farmers.
“I don’t see what was wrong even in his coming over to personally meet the peaceful and democratic protesters. If I was there, I would have walked barefoot all the way to meet them, and everybody knows that….It is a sad day for the image of the country. This kind of repressive and authoritarian response to peaceful democratic activity disfigures the image of our country abroad,” he added.