Sandeep Singh: Badal Heeds SKM Call To Suspend Election Rallies As Tensions Rise In Punjab
Punjab is roughly six months away from its state elections, and local parties have begun holding election rallies which have attracted the ire of Farmers' Protest supporters
September 3, 2021 | 3 min. read | Original Reporting
As Punjab’s political parties ramp up for the upcoming state election, holding rallies across the state, the spectre of clashes between supporters of the Farmers’ Protest and political parties increases.
On Thursday, September 2, Shrimoni Akali Dal President (SAD), Sukhbir Badal, went to address a rally in Punjab’s Moga district, where he met demonstrators.
While some reports suggest protestors allegedly broke through barricades with tractors and came close to the rally venue, necessitating force, protestors claim they were peacefully demonstrating when the police resorted to a lathi charge. It was only at that moment that some farmers pelted stones and used sticks in defense.
At least five farmers have been injured and numerous vehicles damaged in the incident. Punjab Police named many farmers and unknowns for the violence, and those booked include Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) member Nirbhai Singh Dhudike.
The images and videos from the protest shocked many.
Criticism has been leveled against Punjab Police and Sukhbir Badal, with many speculating that what we witnessed Thursday will continue to happen in the future if rallies and election campaigning continues irrespective of the party.
Punjab is roughly six months away from its state elections, and parties have begun holding election rallies.
Under the campaign, “Gal Punjab Di”, Badal is on a 100-day tour of 100 assembly constituencies in the state. Newly appointed Congress Chief, Navjot Sidhu, is also visiting different locations and connecting with Congress supporters to boost ground morale within the party. Both have faced protests in their journeys, welcomed by both black flags and union flags.
On August 30, Badal faced a protest in Macchiwara, and the police booked individuals carrying farm union flags for the destruction of property. A video also went viral where farm union supporters were seen calling those attending Badal’s rallies conscienceless, alongside claims they were being bribed with food and drinks to attend.
While the protest outside Delhi saw all corners of Punjab united in fighting the BJP for what is seen as an existential crisis to the state’s way of life, we are beginning to witness increasing tension within Punjab as supporters of the Farmers’ Protest begin to clash with local parties for hosting rallies as thousands of farmers remain camped outside Delhi.
Many are becoming worried by the prospect of clashes within villages and between neighbours for the potential instability it will bring to the movement as a whole as Punjab’s political parties begin accusing one another of the unruliness.
In an interview with NDTV’s Mohammad Gazali, Badal blamed the Congress and AAP for protesting against him in the guise of farmers. Badal said that the Captain government is working with Modi to stop him, to defame farmers, and to implement President’s Rule in the state.
A few within the Farmers’ Protest movement believe elections should be fully suspended until the Farmers’ Protest issue is resolved with the understanding such a move will keep the movement united and not succumb to petty partisan politics.
However, it is highly unlikely that SKM will call for the suspension of the Punjab state elections, or even boycott them.
Rather, SKM has told politicians not to run election rallies and campaigns, as the Farmers’ Protest has entered the tenth month and such campaigning is anti-farmer. They appealed for people not to attend political rallies and called on the Punjab government to cancel FIRs against farmers by September 8 as well.
In response, Badal has suspended his election campaign for a week and invited SKM to ask him questions which he would try to answer.
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
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