Updated: January 29, 2021 4:27:52 pm
It would be unfortunate if the Centre uses the Red Fort incident as an “excuse” to close the door on farmers, said Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Thursday while strongly condemning the violence and calling for an independent probe to identify the “real culprits.” Excerpts from an interview to The Indian Express:
Has the Red Fort incident on January 26 hurt the farmer protests?
The incident was a shame on all of us, an insult to our nation. That the symbol of Independent India should be damaged and sullied in this manner is not something any proud Indian can sanctify. It is a disrespect also to our revered Nishan Sahib, which was used by some goons (they could not have been farmers) to undermine a peaceful protest.
As a Punjabi, I feel insulted on behalf of my community, which is bringing its sons wrapped in the national flag almost every second day from the nation’s borders. But it would be wrong to malign the whole community, whose patriotism can never be questioned or doubted. It would also be wrong to defame the farmers, who have been protesting peacefully now for months, first in Punjab and for the past two-plus months at Delhi’s borders, without causing an iota of trouble. It is the sons of these very farmers who are sacrificing their lives protecting our country’s borders.
Those who indulged in the violence at Red Fort were not genuine farmers but some anti-social elements. Some of them have been identified, like this actor Deep Sidhu, who has been named by Delhi Police as a key perpetrator. So while this incident may have some temporary repercussions for the farmers’ agitation, I do not think it can cause any serious damage to their movement. They are fighting for their survival and for their future generations and I don’t think the struggle of the genuine farmers or their supporters can be negated by one such incident.
The Red Fort incident cannot and should not be used by BJP or anyone else to negate the pain of the farmers, who have been camping out in the bitter Delhi cold for more than two months now. Can’t the BJP see their tears?
Of the over 40 farm union leaders who were talking with the Centre, more than 30 have been named in the FIR. How does this affect the ongoing talks? Has the space shrunk for negotiations.
It would be really unfortunate if the Centre uses this lone incident as an excuse to close the doors for future talks with the farmers. That would really spell the death of democracy for India. I sincerely hope and urge the Central government to continue to engage with the farmers, as they have been doing over the past several weeks. Talks and negotiation are the only way to resolve this crisis, and the only solution to the problem.
I would also like to reiterate here that this one incident should not be used by the Centre or the Delhi Police to harass and target farmer leaders. Those who are guilty of inciting violence, and those who actively indulged in lawlessness, should definitely be punished but this incident should not become a tool to destroy the farmers’ movement. If there is any proof, any video footage, of any of these farmer leaders inciting trouble, then let them be arrested and punished, but how can they be held responsible for the acts of others, especially those who, on the face of it, are not even farmers?
In fact, there are indications of involvement of members of some political parties, and also talk of Pakistan’s hand in this incident. That makes it all the more imperative that a thorough, proper and fair investigation should be conducted to identify the real culprits.
The violence and the Red Fort incident have again given a handle to those who were name-calling earlier. Union Minister Rajnath Singh had strongly condemned it then.
This whole business of calling farmers all kinds of cheap names, such as Khalistanis, Urban Naxalites, was resorted to by BJP to weaken and damage the farmers’ battle against the farm laws…If those sitting on the roads are not farmers but terrorists and secessionists, do you really think the Central Government would have held 12 rounds of negotiations with them to discuss the issue?
I would sincerely advise them to stop name-calling. India’s lifeline is the farmers and its agriculture system and destroying them would mean an end for the country’s food security and self-sufficiency.
What is your message to the farmers today?
I would only like to say to my farmer brethren: Stay calm. Don’t let some mischievous elements provoke you into any kind of reaction. Stick to the peaceful means which have been the hallmark of your agitation all these months, and which have ensured immense support for you from around the world. Stay engaged with the Central Government, talk to them. I am sure that having come so far, they will be amenable to understanding your point of view and accept your suggestion for repeal of the farm laws sooner than later.
Talks is the only solution. It is the only way to resolve this crisis. If the Government can talk to China, which has been infiltrating into our territories and grabbing our land for months now, why should they suspend talks with their own farmers, our own people? My suggestions to both, the farmers and the Government: please keep talking, I am sure you will find a way out of his imbroglio.
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